Can a puppy end our loneliness?

We have seen people shop for some unusual things during this pandemic. Home cooking and baking became a trend, yeast became high in demand. Americans went into RV shopping frenzy, roller skates made a comeback and when people couldn’t hoard enough toilet paper, they went after non-paper tushy cleaning devices: bidets.

We in the Netherlands were not untouched by this supposed side effect of the corona virus. Like many other people around the world, Dutch people as well stocked up on toilet paper and non-perishable foods, and just like others, we had our own unusual item shopping frenzy: puppies. Yes, dogs, especially puppies, have become really high in demand in the Netherlands. So much so that breeders and shelters are finding it difficult to meet the demand.

Come to think of it, dogs being in demand doesn’t seem so unusual after all. Most of us have lived with limited to no social contact for the better part of the year. While some of us have been unfortunate enough to catch the corona virus and feel the physical effects of it, almost all of us have suffered and are still suffering the pandemic’s impact on our mental and emotional health.

So, the fact that more and more Dutch people are looking for a companion to join them on their lonely walks or for some company while they wait the virus out doesn’t seem strange at all. After all, a dog is a man’s best friend; it doesn’t just give cuddles, but gives us a reason to get out of the house for some fresh air and exercise, instead of just sitting on the couch binging on Netflix and junk food. A survey conducted by Petplan as early as April showed that almost 50 % of people who considered bringing a dog home were influenced by the corona virus crisis.

People started enquiring at dog breeders and shelters as soon as Prime Minister Rutte announced the quarantine measures mid-March. “People are sending me short business-like emails, as if they are looking for a new refrigerator: ‘What does a puppy cost? Do you have one right now? Then I’ll come and get him straight away.’ Normally I receive about 10 emails a day, now there are 40-50,” says dog breeder Monica Janneman of Zaanse Doodles. People who can’t afford to buy a dog or are morally against buying or selling animals approach animal shelters. Hans Fokkens, director of Animal Shelter Amsterdam, has noticed more and more dogs being picked up. The shelter now has less than 25 % of the normal number of dogs in their shelter. There are also more temporary foster homes available. “Normally we can place about five to seven dogs in foster homes, but at the moment we have twenty in such homes,” Hans says.

As an animal lover and dog owner myself, I am more concerned about what becomes of these dogs once we are over this hump called corona virus. Dogs are for life and not just a temporary solution. People need to keep this in mind when considering getting one. While a four-pawed furry friend can be a great source of comfort, it also restricts one’s movement in many ways. No matter if it’s sunshine or rain or you had a late night, your day starts early and always with a walk. Even a day out needs to be planned because your dog will need food, water and once again, walks. Not to mention the expenses of regular health check-ups, dog food and preventative medicines. You can’t just pack up and leave for a holiday; you need to find a dog sitter or leave your dog with someone you trust – and more importantly, someone your dog trusts.

So, if you travel a lot for business or pleasure, have a hectic work schedule or have never previously owned a dog, it’s probably best for you and the animal to try the fostering route first. See if a dog (or a cat for that matter) owner lifestyle is for you. You don’t want your dog to become one of your impulse buys. We might be sitting a lot and working from home now, but sooner or later, life will return to normal. Your dog should be as integral a part of your life then as it is now.

Written by Priyanka Sharma