Critter community’s arguably appropriate Word of the Year • Long Beach Post News
The 2020 Word of the Year contenders were more numerous than candidates on the first California gubernatorial ballot in 2006. They spanned sometimes intersecting categories that included politics, technology, Zoom, social movements and, of course, the COVID-19 virus: “dumpster fire,” “Blursday,” “the Rona” and her sisters “Miss Rona” and “Aunt Rona,” “you’re muted,” “kraken.”
Dictionary lookups and frequency of use rather than creativity power the choice of Word of the Year, and so, a couple of comparatively ordinary choices won the honor. Merriam Webster and Dictionary.com selected “pandemic,” and the Oxford English Dictionary, gobsmacked by the unprecedented cats-and-dogs rain of new words and sudden popularity of common ones, picked “unprecedented.” You can download the report at the link if you regularly attend to couching your words as well as attending to vacuuming the couch after the beagle’s jumped off.
Nowhere on any of the lexical lists was “pandemic pet,” the term for the “silver lining” sewn into the COVID-19 cloud in the form of the astonishing number of cats, dogs and rabbits that continue to go to homes from shelters and rescues. It also could suggest yet another cloud: numbers going the other way in shelters and rescues when people abandon their pets or bring them back when the pandemic takes toll on their livelihoods. More to the point, animal advocates worry that some humans returning to work in person might realize that they can’t be a new best friend after all. “Pandemic pet” reminds me of “midlife-crisis Porsche” or “Hawaiian timeshare.” I even read “pandemic baby” on social media. Maybe I’m touchy, but there’s nothing cuddly about a pandemic; “pandemic pet” seems to trivialize animals.
“’Pandemic pet’ has the sense that it’s a fleeting thing,” said Lydia Bottegoni, whose adopted cat, Pumpkin, came home with her, her wife and twin daughters from Pet Food Express’ Cat Adoption Center. “You have to remember—you’re making a 12-to-18-year commitment.”
“I think it would be good to address what we call at the animal hospital ‘COVID puppies’—puppies adopted during this pandemic when owners are home and not properly socializing or prepping for when they go back to work,’’ said Marisa Strange, an employee of a local veterinary hospital. “Separation anxiety or destructive behaviors will ensue. Starting proper social and kennel training sooner than later is critical to curbing the shock that comes when owners go back to work. We’re already seeing anxious and bad behavior with these COVID puppies.”
Strange counsels anyone owning a pet, pandemic or no, and temporarily working from home to make a conscience effort to leave them unattended for short periods of time and gradually working their way to longer periods so that it won’t be so much of a stressor when the human returns to the field.
“Ideally, the hope is that people forced from their normal routines who sought pet companionship will discover the joy and reward it brings in a way they might not have otherwise,” said Deborah Felin, volunteer for Helen Sanders CatPAWS. “The concern, of course, is with those who may have gotten a pet on a whim, not fully recognizing or accepting the lifetime commitment it entails.” In tandem with Strange’s advice about gradually giving animals adjustment time, Felin said that time with the pets should be spent on reassuring them that they’re loved and to take time playing with them. Taking the dog for walks is also important for exercise.
“You could even secure the cat in a stroller to get a look outdoors—don’t judge! People do it, it’s cute!” she said.
Getting a new pet under “normal” circumstances isn’t as simple as buying a toaster that you just plug in, and the pandemic, with its implied end, adds complications. Even the most low-maintenance of pets needs food, water, medical care and attention. Freelance writer and editor Diane Elisabeth Baumer got two cats and found them to be great stress relievers. She said she gets as much work done as she wants—apparently, she’s taught them to refrain from lying on the keyboards and blocking the monitor.
Fellow freelancer Toni Suzuki isn’t nearly as unruffled.
“Puppies are so much work!” she said. “I work from home, and it was so hard to get any work done during the first few months. The first few months are taxing, especially if you’re being responsible and doing all the proper socialization, training and so on. If you’re going for a puppy, I’d definitely recommend taking a couple weeks off after puppy comes home and then reducing your workload for a few more weeks after that. It’s near impossible—at least for me—to get a full workday in with a young beastie around.”
Older dogs might have issues, too, but most of them need walking, and so do you, if you work at home. Walking a dog is one good way to get off your tokus for a while and head outside. But dogs aren’t hardwired for leashes. Puppy adopter Adrienne Reynolds found her work cut out for her when she adopted Petey from an independent rescue. Petey was 4 four months old and 10 pounds of trouble.
“He was frightened of everything,” Reynolds said.
The pandemic coincided with Reynolds’ boyfriend moving out. What was worse, he took the dog with him. Reynolds missed the dog more than the guy, and so she set out to find a dog to keep her company. The jury’s still out over whether she’d have preferred a new boyfriend to the dog she took home.
“When I got him, he was dirty and covered in fleas, and he had a double ear infection,” Reynolds said. That much was curable. What took more time was Petey’s fear-based aggression. He didn’t know how to walk on a leash, and it took him a while to warm up to people. If we went outside on a walk and someone else was out watering the lawn or walking their dog, he’d start barking. At one point, I was really frustrated and hired a trainer, then another. Nothing helped.”
Reynolds did consider returning Petey to the rescue, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
“He’d have been unadoptable if I brought him back,” she said. Instead, she changed their walking patterns, taught her son to respect Petey when he needed a break, and provided lots of chewable toys after she returned to work. She gated off a play area for him so he wouldn’t cause further destruction when she was at work and spends more time with him on weekends when she’s off. Her son is a good playmate, too.
Reynolds advises potential adopters to do their research and pledge to put time and effort into their dog’s training. Petey’s behavior has, indeed, improved, she said.
“But he’s still—different,” she added. “He’s unlike any other dog I’ve had. Sometimes I’m sorry I took him home, but the good things he’s done for our family make up for it. He once scared off a burglar who got into the car! I feel strongly that he came into our house for a reason, because heaven knows what would have happened to him otherwise.”
Hopefully, the definition of “pandemic pets” will be ultimately limited to “ animals adopted during the pandemic and who found their forever homes.” But if any of us have learned anything during the past several months, it’s that everything doesn’t end well. It’s up to potential adopters to see to it that it does.
“A lot of people want emotional support dogs,” Romano said. I hope that everyone finds the means now [to ensure that] when we switch to a different normal, you’ll take care of the dog.”
Yes, and cats and rabbits, too.
Linda Darcy, Live Love Animal Rescue’s adoption director, advises the following to both human companions of dogs and new adopters to deal with future separation anxiety: “We have been advising adopters to maintain the crate-training routine that our fosters have established and give their newly adopted dog scheduled “alone time” in smaller doses throughout the day. Hopefully, they can build up the time so the dog doesn’t notice anything amiss by the time their human goes back to the office. Even for people that will be working from home permanently, teaching your newly adopted dog to have some independence is important to maintaining balance in the human-dog relationship.”
If you’re ready to adopt a dog and what Darcy said makes complete sense to you, here are Live Love adoption candidates ready to stick by you through thick, thin and all the stuff in between. To inquire about any of them or their companions-in-foster, access their adoption page and click the adoption application button.
Just fur fun and fur-ther education
Feline Good Social Club pads off to hibernate
Feline Good Social Club will be closed to the public for at least a month. The cat curators said that in the interest of public safety, the kitties will be curled up in foster homes and will hopefully be back Jan. 28. “We are so sad that we have to share this disappointing news during this holiday season,” read their social-media posts. “Stay tuned and pawsitive, friends—we will be back!”
Online Cat Conference 2021, register here, Friday, Jan. 29, 4–6 p.m. PST; Saturday, Jan. 30, 7 a.m.–3 p.m. PST; Sunday, Jan. 31, 7 a.m.–3 p.m. PST, $60 through Jan. 29, $75 after that date
Have you made a resolution to find out more how you could help some of the cats you see out and about in your neighborhood? Or maybe you resolve to learn more about nutrition and how to keep your own cats healthy and happy. You can learn about all that and so much more in this information packed three-day conference! Check out the myriad topics and outstanding presenters. If you type in the code Catpaws when registering, the conference planners will make a $25 donation to Helen Sanders CatPAWS. Register here:
Help wanted, help given
DIY Kitten Care Kits available free at Long Beach Animal Care Services
Kitten season is just about up, but kittens still enter shelters. It isn’t unusual to find nests of young, seemingly abandoned kittens during kitten season. It is a natural reaction to want to help, to save them. But before you jump in, consider these steps outlined here. If you are interested in obtaining a Kitten Care Kit made possible by Helen Sanders CatPAWS, please email [email protected].
Spay/neuter vouchers available at shelter
Long Beach Animal Care Services has spay/neuter vouchers available. They’ll take a healthy nip out of the cost of a procedure. Residents of any of the five cities served by the shelter—(see above)—can telephone the general number at (562) 570–7387 to request a voucher.
The Spay/Neuter Project of Los Angeles (SNP/LA) is back in business for free and low-cost spay/neuter services, and they’re extending the hours of their vaccination clinics. The San Pedro clinic, located at 957 N. Gaffey St., will give shots every third Thursday between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Call (310) 574–5555 to see if you qualify for services.
If you can see the bottom of the kibble bag
Helen Sanders CatPAWS offers, through specific private donors, e-gift cards for people struggling during the crisis to buy food for their pets. The CatPAWS Spay/Neuter Fund, also privately funded, has vouchers available for anyone not able to go to the shelter for them. They also accept donations.
Pets of the Homeless‘ home page gives a self-description as the only organization focusing only on providing food and care for pets belonging to homeless people. Businesses and other organizations across the country receive in-kind donations of food and other needs that the dogs and cats’ human families can pick up at outreach locations. The following Long Beach businesses will accept your donations:
Trendi Pawz, 3726 E. 7th St., Long Beach
Belmont Heights Animal Hospital, 255 Redondo Ave., Long Beach
Paw Shoppe Pet Center, Inc., 6416 E. Spring St., Long Beach
Food and supplies are available at Beacon for Him Ministries, 1535 Gundry Ave. Long Beach, Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon and Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m.; and at Christian Outreach in Action, 515 E. 3rd St., Long Beach, Thursday from 9 to 11 a.m. Donations will be gratefully accepted at these locations as well.
Adopt, adopt, adopt
Pet Food Express Cat Adoption Center: weekdays and Saturday 10 a.m.–8p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Pet Food Express, 4220 Long Beach Blvd, Long Beach, adoption fees apply
This adoption center is a much-needed satellite operation of Long Beach Animal Care Services. Julie and her team pull adoptable cats—”adoptable,” to these guys, means any cat in a shelter kennel! The team socializes the kitties until they’re adopted, which takes less time than you could imagine!
Helen Sanders CatPAWS adoption center: viewable daily during store hours, PetSmart, 12341 Seal Beach Blvd, Seal Beach, adoption fees apply.
Window-shopping’s a neat pastime and likely has become more common during the pandemic. Helen Sanders CatPAWS has applied window-shopping to cat adoption; you can peer at several of the fine felines through the windows of the PetSmart adoption center in Seal Beach. Sadly, no ear scratching or chin rubs at this time, but volunteers can answer questions and provide you with adoption information! Be sure to wear a mask. You can find adoption applications and all the kitties here.
Links to loveables
The following pet-related businesses regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions, but as of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list.