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?

 

Day 89 Shelter in Place: More Change

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The park near my home where I’ve been walking Waffles.

I have two big changes in my “new normal.” One, because our city pool hasn’t opened up yet, I finally dove into our backyard pool to swim. It’s too short to do more than ten strokes, so I ordered a swim bungee cord that connects to a velcro strap that goes around my waist. It took me a day or two to figure out this is really good exercise — although I don’t swim as long as I would at Masters in the city pool. When you swim against the bungee, it’s resistance training and I get really sore!

I’ve done five days of swimming and I’m making progress. My back and arms are killing me. I should have started this 88 days ago, but hey I’m doing it now! When I take off the contraption, I feel free like I can fly through the water. This has to be good for me in addition to my daily walks.IMG_5883

The second big change comes tomorrow. My girl and Waffles the pug have decided to return to their lives in the Bay Area. I do know this is for the best but wow. I am going to miss them both. I’m getting a little teary-eyed at the thought.

One of the blessings of this horrific pandemic has been the time we got to share together while sheltering in place. It gave us time together for several months that I doubt would have ever happened without COVID-19. I’m happy for her to move on with her life, but yes, I’m going to miss her and Waff.

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Waffles on my lap. I’m going to miss this good boy!

How is your life changing through these days?

 

 

Day 76: Sheltering through Crisis

The world has turned upside down. Again. That’s how I feel this week. After a wonderful weekend were we ventured out of our bubble to the wide open beaches in the Santa Barbara area with family, we returned home to crisis and chaos. I feel so badly and grieve for the Floyd family. I feel badly for others who have been hurt and killed. I feel badly for our entire country.

I haven’t been able to focus or concentrate. I wanted to post something, so I can remember this week years from now: the sadness, agony and distress. 

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Sunset beach walk with my daughter this past weekend.

It’s the little things that count

Prior to COVID-19 and the weirdness of today — pre my ski accident and subsequent knee surgery — I wrote about the little things in life that matter the most. These thoughts are important today. What I wouldn’t give to get up and go to practice at 5:30 a.m. or have lunch with a friend. If anything these two months sheltering place have taught me to appreciate what I have and love the most. My family and friends — and pets.

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The view from our pool makes me happy.

I’m proud of myself today, because I started off the week with 5:30 a.m. practice. I’ve been trying to get up, half-heartedly I’ll admit, for the past month but the comfort of bed is just too much for me at 5 a.m. An extra hour of sleep usually wins out. But, today I did it. I made it to practice on time, began my workout in the dark and found joy in watching the views of the sunrise and pink-hued mountain change color during my workout.

I find a lot of happiness and excitement in the little things in my days. Our lives are made of small moments strung together and if we spend too much time worrying or focusing on the past or future, we miss the little bits of joy in the present. 

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Happiness is my daughter with her puppy.

Here’s a list of moments that make me truly happy:

Hearing the birds sing early in the morning.

My fourth flip turn during my second 200 at practice this morning. I nailed it.

Having lunch yesterday with a good friend and spending a few hours catching up with our lives.

Noticing that a family member got their dish off the table, into the sink and miracle of miracles—into the dishwasher.

Olive the cat honoring me with her presence and stretching out for a cat nap while I’m laying on my side. I have to be careful not to move, so she doesn’t fall off.

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Olive the cat in our back yard.

 

My kids calling just to talk. They aren’t asking for anything and there’s nothing big going on.

Sitting under an orange tree in my back yard reading a really good book.

Walking with my husband and marveling at the beauty surrounding us on a weekend morning.

Reading a positive comment on one of my articles.

Checking things off my to-do list and feeling productive.

What little things in your life make your day?

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Beautiful views of bougainvillea.

 

 

Day 55 Shelter in Place: Good and Bad News

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The park.

First the good news. Things are opening up a little bit in our county and my daughter and I played tennis two mornings in a row. Prior to this week, the tennis courts were padlocked. I found that almost as annoying as the pool being closed. It looks so wrong to see padlocks and yellow tape wrapping around our park, parking lots, playground equipment, etc.

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Before we became a full-on swim family, my kids took tennis lessons. My daughter was at preschool at the time and two of her good friends were taking lessons with her. My son had his buddies in his group as well. The instructor was a big goofy tennis pro who the kids called “Charlie Farlie.”

I took lessons in high school with my mom at the University of Washington, some sort of fun extension class. It was in the Hutchinson gym and there were huge windows up several stories in height. My mom and I both managed to hit the ball out those windows — several times — and we weren’t even trying! I’m mentioning this because my daughter and I do have some sort of background in tennis, although we’re hardly proficient at it.

Brick north face of Hutchinson Hall on Stevens Way East. The building hosts the School of Drama, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA. The 1926 building (architects Bebb & Gould) was named for long-time faculty member Mary Gross Hutchinson,

Hutchinson Hall where my mom and me took tennis. t

Fast forward to when we decided to homeschool my daughter for middle school. We had several homeschool families on the swim team and I envied their schedules. There were no late nights after practice completing pages of math problems or filling out worksheets for them. These homeschooled kids were really smart, well behaved and looked so happy. So we gave it a whirl. We went through a phase where we started our day with a bike ride around the park, played tennis together and then returned home to hit the books.

This week brought me back to those days. We had fun reminiscing about them and laughed at our bad shots while enjoying the cool mornings. I got a better workout than I do walking around the park. I got my heart rate up because my tennis is mostly running to corners of the court to pick up balls.

Now for the bad news. The city may not open up the pool. It’s been closed since shelter in place began 55 days ago. I was going to write a letter to the city to complain when our team was no longer allowed to use the pool, but individuals could lap swim. By the time I was composing my scathing letter, the pool had closed altogether.IMG_9355

Our town’s main industry is tourism. The hotels have been shuttered along with vacation rentals for two months. There’s no way to enjoy our beautiful weather, golf courses, tennis courts and hiking trials unless you are a resident. That means the city budget is devastated. Along with the pool, the city is talking about closing the library, animal shelter and cutting salaries, too.

We have one of the most gorgeous pools in state. Our Piranha Swim Team has a history of more than 50 years — one of the longest running teams in California. The kids who go through the program can swim in college if they choose. I think our success rate of kids going on to the next level is close to 90 percent. It was the single best thing we did for our kids in terms of activities. They were Piranhas from age five until they went to college. My daughter represented Piranhas in the summer after she went to college. I can go on and on about how great the team was for my kids, and now for me as a swimmer, too. It helped develop their healthy lifestyles, competitive spirits, and their character.

I’ll be devastated is the pool doesn’t reopen.

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Day 50: Shelter in Place

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Someone is sporting some fancy toenails! 

It’s a milestone day. I seriously thought this was only going to last for 40 days and 40 nights. That seemed reasonable and I thought if Noah could last that long confined to an ark with a bunch of smelly animals, then we could do the same in our home, with one cat and a pug.

But here we are on day 50 and there’s really no end in sight. Except they may open the tennis and pickle ball courts. But I don’t play those sports. No word about the city pool or when my team will be back in the water. I hear that retail is opening up for curbside pick up. But when you’re not going anywhere — what does anyone really need?

On the bright side, we’re saving a ton of money on gasoline, dry cleaning and nail and hair appointments.

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Views of Mt. San Jacinto from my neighborhood walk.

I’m walking 10,000 steps a day.  Other highlights are riding bikes, kicking in our backyard pool and playing the occasional game of smashball in the water. I’m also reading, writing and watching music documentaries. That’s my week in a nutshell. It’s not a bad life. It’s just weird to walk with a face mask and feel like I’m taking my life in danger every time I go to the grocery store or post office.

Some days I’m motivated and have lots of ideas and make lists of what I want to accomplish. Other days, not so much.

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I found a pirate hiding in the bushes!

Any idea of how many days this shelter in place will last? Are things opening up in your area? What are you busy doing during these strange days?

Day 46: Shelter in Place

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Morning views.

Where has the time gone? The days melt into each other, literally with temperatures above 100 degrees. We’re getting up earlier and earlier so we can beat the heat for our morning walks and bike rides.

It’s hard to remember what day of the week it is. I’m trying to stick to a routine as I’ve practiced for years based on Julia Cameron and her books beginning with The Artists’s Way. I think it helps to have a routine in the best of times, and with the oddness of staying home it’s more important.

A couple months ago, I received a few emails from two swim moms asking me for advice because their teen sons were burned out on swimming and wanted to quit. They were both so sad that their sons wanted to give up when they were so close to finishing their age group/ high school careers and could go on to swim in college. As a swim parent it’s easy to go all in and make the pool the center of our family lives, too. It’s thrilling to watch our kids compete, we make friends with the other parents and coaches. Volunteering at meets and supporting the team in numerous other ways takes up hours of our time.

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Our home pool at sunset.

Then poof! Out of the blue, your child decides they’re done. But funny thing is, you’re not! Then the Coronavirus hit and all the teams are out of the water. There isn’t any practice to go to. I heard from one of the moms who wrote me earlier. Now that her son can’t go to practice — he wants to. He’s been given a taste of what it’s like to not have his teammates and coach in his daily life. He also doesn’t get to substitute the swim practice hours with anything else. Plus, our school age kids aren’t in school or with their friends.

I guess the lesson is, “Hey it’s not that bad!” The complaints we all had before this shut down seem petty and small compared to loss of life, loss of jobs, income and activities. Another reason to be grateful for what we do have and realize that our lives can change with our next breath.

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Me and my swim buddies with the Masters’ T-shirts we created.

What have you found you miss the most during the Coronavirus shut down? Is there something you weren’t thrilled about that you’d like to do, now that you can’t?