How are pets affected by the pandemic?

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Olive the cat.

How are our furry friends handling the stress of the pandemic? Do they like having us around all the time? Well, according to a dog training expert I heard on the radio, if man’s best friend’s behavior has changed, then they may be stressed out. (I’m sorry I can’t remember the name of the dog trainer, but he had some really good advice.)

If we are stressed out, our dogs may become stressed, too. Barking more than usual, destroying things or being super clingy are signs of stress. The trainer said the best thing to do is not yell at your dog when they are barking or rifling through the trash, but instead say, “Come!” Next, work with them for a few minutes so they get focused. Run through a few sits and stays. Our dogs live to please us and they are dying to work for us. Spending a few minutes throughout the day with short training sessions can change their destructive behavior and make them feel better.IMG_6035

In an article called Preventing pandemic-related pet anxiety now and later by Kristi King on WTOP.com, a Maryland radio station, a veterinarian offers advice for our pandemic-stressed pets. Here’s an excerpt:

A veterinarian has advice for helping pets get through the pandemic when everyone is home and when their owners return to work.

With all the family at home during the pandemic, pack animals such as dogs could not be happier to have everyone in the same roof. Some cats, on the other hand, not so much.

“I think it’s very smart to think proactively,” senior veterinarian at Chewy, Dr. Katy Nelson said.

If you’re a dog owner, Nelson recommends making adjustments now to help dogs that might experience separation anxiety when you’re not constantly around.

Start by resuming former routines you might have dropped, such as waking up, getting dressed and leaving the house.

“Whether it’s just for 30 minutes or an hour, where you go pick up a coffee through the drive-thru and you sit in your car for a while. It gives your pets a little bit of time without you,” she said.

If you can, Nelson said to try to make your departure time as similar to your usual workday routine. Some dogs might need to revisit the habit of having to spend time in their crates.

Signs of separation anxiety can include dogs destroying things or overly grooming themselves.

“Really good exercise can help a lot with these pets. A tired pet is a good pet,” Nelson said.

The article also talks about cats and typically they aren’t as happy as the puppers to have us around all the time. That’s because cats like to be left alone and they like privacy. They probably believe we are invading their space. Cats definitely differ from dogs — they aren’t living to please us.

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Waffles the pug.

How are your pets doing during the pandemic? How have their schedules and routines changed?

 

Are you a cat or dog person?

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Olive

I’m a cat owner now. For most of my life, I was cat and dog owner. My cat is Olive and she’s going on nine years. We got her when my son left for college. He’s allergic to cats so we waited until he was out of the house. Olive is really my daughter’s kitty, but she didn’t take Olive to the snow in Salt Lake City during college, even though Olive would have done well with all her fur and polydactyl paws. Then my daughter got her pug Waffles and the two creatures don’t mix. Olive remains my only pet now. I worried about moving her from the only house and yard she knew in Palm Springs to our new home in Arizona. 

She used to go outside for about 10 to 12 hours each day. Now she’s strictly an indoor cat due to the wildlife around our house. So far we’ve seen coyotes, bobcats, javelina, hawks and owls. People warned me that cats wouldn’t last an hour outside. I was afraid she’d go nuts. I thought she’d sneak through my legs whenever I opened the door. But the opposite is true. Olive runs and hides under the bed if a door is cracked open. I think she must smell the danger outside.

Olive jumps in my lap for attention and she follows me around the house. She plays with her toys in the early mornings. Then she stoically stares out the sliding glass door at sunrise. Watching. Waiting. For what? I think she was cut out for the indoor cat life. 

In an article by Christopher Ingraham called “Dog owners are much happier than cat owners, survey finds” published in the Washington Post, he quotes lots of statistics that basically say that there’s little difference between pet owners and non-pet owners, but a huge difference in happiness between dog and cat lovers.

The well-respected survey that’s been a barometer of American politics, culture and behavior for more than four decades finally got around to the question that has bedeviled many a household.

Dog or cat?

In 2018, the General Social Survey for the first time included a battery of questions on pet ownership. The findings not only quantified the nation’s pet population — nearly 6 in 10 households have at least one —they made it possible to see how pet ownership overlaps with all sorts of factors of interest to social scientists.

Like happiness.

For starters, there is little difference between pet owners and non-owners when it comes to happiness, the survey shows. The two groups are statistically indistinguishable on the likelihood of identifying as “very happy” (a little over 30 percent) or “not too happy” (in the mid-teens).

But when you break the data down by pet type — cats, dogs or both — a stunning divide emerges: Dog owners are about twice as likely as cat owners to say they’re very happy, with people owning both falling somewhere in between.

Dog people, in other words, are slightly happier than those without any pets. Those in the cat camp, on the other hand, are significantly less happy than the pet-less. And having both appears to cancel each other out happiness-wise. (Since someone’s bound to ask, it isn’t possible to do this same type of analysis for say, rabbit owners or lizard owners or fish owners, since there aren’t enough of those folks in the survey to make a statistically valid sample).

These differences are quite large: The happiness divide between dog and cat owners is bigger than the one between people who identify as middle and upper class, and nearly as large as the gap between those who say they’re in “fair” versus “good or excellent” health.

However, correlation doesn’t equal causation, and there are probably a number of other differences between dog and cat owners that account for some of the differences. The General Social Survey data show that dog owners, for instance, are more likely to be married and own their own homes than cat owners, both factors known to affect happiness and life satisfaction.

Previous research on this topic yielded mixed results. In 2006, the Pew Research Center found no significant differences in happiness between pet owners and non-pet owners, or cat and dog owners. However, that survey did not distinguish between people who owned “only” a dog or a cat, and those who owned “either” a dog or a cat, potentially muddying the distinctions between exclusive dog and cat owners.

2016 study of dog and cat owners, on the other hand, yielded greater happiness ratings for dog owners relative to cat people. It attributed the contrast, at least in part, to differences in personality: Dog owners tended to be more agreeable, more extroverted and less neurotic than cat owners. And a 2015 study linked the presence of a cat in the home to fewer negative emotions, but not necessarily an increase in positive ones.

We’ve always had dogs. But after Angus, our big yellow lab, who died at age 15, I just don’t want to go through the heartache again. Right now. In the future we’ll see.

 

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Angus and Sherman

It’s so hard to say good-bye. It’s not fair that our pets live such short lives. I have two friends that lost their best friends in the past few weeks. One lost Beckham, her Aussie, and another lost her glorious golden last week at eight years old. My heart grieves for them both.

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Lola (RIP) center, with Waffles and Gracie.

What is your opinion on dogs versus cats? Do you have either or both and do they make you happy?

 

Why can’t they get along?

 

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Waffles graduation pic.

I’m babysitting my daughter’s pug Waffles while she’s off visiting her brother and then studying abroad in Paris and Rome. I have him under my wing until August when she moves to Arizona and takes Waffles with her. He’s a sweet little guy without much fuss or muss, most of the time.

But, we also have Olive. Olive is a seven-year-old cat, who looks suspiciously like a Maine Coone. When my daughter was a sophomore in high school, my daughter adopted the young kitty from the Palm Springs Animal Shelter. Olive has become my cat and I’m pretty attached. She’s a pretty lame hunter, and mostly goes after worms and bugs.

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Olive Bear.

The problem is Waffles and Olive don’t get along. Waffles is not quite two years old and likes to chase. Olive used to run. Then Olive would stay outside and wouldn’t come back until Waffles left. It wasn’t a long time, like a week of being an outdoor cat, while our daughter was home for Christmas or Spring Break. But now it’s going to be three months. I don’t want Olive to run away for good.

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Waffles picture on “We Rate Dogs.”

Olive has changed her behavior to hissing and whacking at Waff. But it doesn’t intimidate Waffles at all and he gets quite growly and barky. He has a big personality and gets right in her face. It escalates quickly and gets noisy and rough. I don’t understand why they just can’t get along.

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My pretty kitty Olive.

 

Do you have any advice for getting a seven-year-old cat and two-year-old pug to become friends?

 

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My favorite graduation picture of my daughter and Waffles.

 

Missing Angus at the Beach — a Good Dog Story

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ANGUS

AUGUST 7, 2014: I’m missing Angus a lot lately. We’re on vacation at the beach in a little cottage where Angus slept on the front porch with his head sticking in the doorway into the living room. Every morning at this cottage for nine years I took Angus for a walk up the hill. In the evenings, the family took him for his nightly swim in the ocean. He’d jump through the waves chasing a tennis ball. Everywhere I look, I miss him. So, I’m reposting this story I wrote in honor of my son and Angus’s birthday last March.

MARCH 14, 2014: Next week my son turns 21 years old. Officially an adult. He shared his birth date with Angus, our yellow lab. But, sadly, this year Angus isn’t with us. He made it from my son’s 1st grade birthday to his sophomore year in college.

 

My kids with Angus at the beach.

My kids with Angus at the beach.

The following is a story I wrote when Robert invited 50 kids to his second grade birthday party. It was published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room. 

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Camping with Angus in Carpinteria.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

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Angus watching the kids on the playground at Ruth Hardy Park.

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

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Angus at his front porch post at the beach cottage.

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

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At the cottage.

In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

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The birthday boys, Robert and his dog Angus.

 

Here’s a link to a video of Angus doing his daily chore of getting the paper.

My Son Invited 50 Kids to His Second Grade Birthday Party

Angus7Next week my son turns 21 years old. Officially an adult. He shared his birth date with Angus, our yellow lab. But, sadly, this year Angus isn’t with us. He made it from my son’s 1st grade birthday to his sophomore year in college.

The following is a story I wrote when Robert invited 50 kids to his second grade birthday party. It was published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room. Photos are of Angus and my kids.

Angus1A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

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I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

Angus

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swalloing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

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In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

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Here’s a link to a video of Angus doing his daily chore of getting the paper.