Mindy Hammond teaches her dogs new tricks during lockdown

May 4, 2020
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Mindy teaches her dogs new tricks

Mindy teaches her dogs new tricks (Image: Susan Hellard)

They give us comfort, they make us smile and, most importantly in these troublesome times, they provide companionship and affection. Yet animal rescue centres, already struggling to provide food, shelter and care for their charges, are finding members of the public abandoning pets in the belief they may harbour coronavirus. 

This is ridiculous. There is no evidence to suggest your cat or dog can give you coronavirus.

We’ve all heard or seen the report of the tiger from the Bronx Zoo in New York that contracted the disease – but it caught the disease from an asymptomatic keeper. The tiger’s sister, two Amur tigers and three African lions also lost their appetites and developed dry coughs but continued to
be “bright, alert and interactive with their keepers”, the zoo said.

Pets run amok

Pets run amok (Image: Susan Hellard)

Naturally, cat owners across America were concerned. Could they infect their cats? Could their pets infect them? Scientific advice has been clear. Your cat is safe and so are you, so snuggle away.

There is a possibility that tigers in captivity are more susceptible to the virus than household moggies due to the five per cent difference in their genomes. Big cats are not quite the same as little ones.

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You may also have heard of a Pomeranian dog dying of the virus. Did you know the dog was 17 years old and had tested “weak positive” for the virus? Scientists believe it could have been contaminated by its owner, who had a confirmed case of coronavirus, while the dog itself had not actually
been infected. 

Walkies

Walkies (Image: Susan Hellard)

The dog was quarantined and showed no symptoms.  A few weeks later it tested negative and was returned home, where it died two days later. Vets believe its death was due to the stress and anxiety of its stay in quarantine.

We’re all doing our best to ride this storm and keep our families safe and well. Pets
are part of our families, too, and we want to do nothing more than what is best for them.
If you share your home with a “person with
fur” you are lucky. You can
enjoy a cuddle, play a game or teach your pet a new trick. But nothing dangerous please. You don’t want to run around after your dog and fall over something, ending up in A&E. The
NHS has enough on its hands.

In the doghouse

In the doghouse (Image: Susan Hellard)

But let us be mindful of the fact that at some point we’ll all return to our normal lives. At that point our dogs, who are delighted by our company 24/7, delirious over the increase in their fitness levels and surprised at the whole family’s enthusiasm for walkies, will find themselves lonely, although fitter than ever, with nobody to pick up the lead or throw a ball and no way of burning off their energy in an empty house.

We should all think of the future. Do we really want to return home after the first day back at work to find it destroyed by an anxious pet, desperate for its absent people?  

Mindy, exhausted

Mindy, exhausted (Image: Susan Hellard)

As we have adjusted to isolation, so will our pets have to readjust to their habitual isolation when normal life is resumed. While most cats are self-sufficient and likely to seek out a quiet corner, if your dog normally spends several hours a day on his own, perhaps, to keep some semblance of normality, it might be kindest to try to continue to give him an hour or two of quiet time. Maybe try not to increase his daily exercise to a level which cannot be sustained when the demands of everyday life are back. If you have a new puppy that will be tricky. But it’s better to think of how life will be going forward and manage their day accordingly than find yourself with a stir-crazy pup in a few months’ time.

Exercising the ponies

Exercising the ponies (Image: Susan Hellard)

The mental health of our pets will inevitably have a direct effect on our own. A well-behaved and happy dog makes for a happy owner. A tricky one results in a stressful environment. At the moment, they are giving us their undivided love and attention with no idea their version of utopia is ever going to end.

So, let’s all try to make readjustment easy on them when it does and we are all finally liberated.

Let’s remember how we felt at the beginning of lockdown and be as generous of heart and as devoted to them as they are to us. Be kind, be happy, be healthy and, most of all, be safe.



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