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Lockdown pets and how they make a global pandemic better

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On the fence about using lockdown time to welcome a pet into the household? Three HerCanberra writers explain the magical difference a new animal has made during the rigours of a global pandemic.

Emma Macdonald and her cat Cosmo

Last year’s lockdown was a pretty depressing time and looking back now I can see how we placed far too much pressure on ourselves and our two kids (then in Years 5 and 9) to keep up with work and school when we were all struggling with the shock of the new.

This lockdown is just as depressing, but what is different is that we have all lowered our expectations. And we are also, joyfully, sharing our house with a gloriously floofy and very friendly Ragdoll cat called Cosmo.

Yes, the most wonderful part of this pandemic is that we realised the psychological benefits of pet ownership and succumbed to years of nagging from the kids.

Also, now we don’t travel (or go anywhere at all other than the local supermarket at the end of the street) owning a pet seems a far less onerous task.

Cosmo, prefers being carried. Prefers being asleep.

Cosmo arrived in August last year (after we put our name down with a local breeder during the hard lockdown in April) and has made our lives immeasurably better.

It’s hard to even know how to explain how he has brought us back into the moment, softened the edges of each day’s inevitable hard moments and focussed our attention on the joys of napping, eating and hanging out in a sunbeam. His purr is the best sound on earth.

Admittedly our cat is not the most active. Or even just active at all. The first few weeks of having him here we would constantly be watching him asleep upside down on the floor asking each other “but is he dead?”.

No, Cosmo just likes to really relax by flopping over and splaying himself out. He also loves being carried from room to room to be in the company of whoever wants him the most (and to then resume his naps).

Is he dead? No, just napping (on the kitchen bench I have given up trying to claim as my own…)

Cosmo has been a fairly constant fixture on zooms this lockdown, either being shown off to his gloriously hirsute perfection during a class show-and-tell or spotted surreptitiously in the background as he climbs onto a desk for maximum closeness to his people.

On a more serious note, I have seen his sleepy swagger into a bedroom for morning attention calm down a kid who is dreading an online class. He distracts us in the most delightful way.

The only downside is that Cosmo believes this family of four revolves around him. So when we do leave the house, he takes it pretty personally (sits at the window and howls).

The only solution has been to get him a friend. Jupiter, Cosmo’s nephew, arrives next month, and this formerly ordered and highly scheduled household will succumb to the complete and utter chaos of two floof monsters on the loose.

Thanks, COVID for getting us to this place. Ragdoll lyfe is the best thing to have come out of these unprecedented times.

Kate Freeman and her dog Harvey

Harvey joined our family on 28 February 2021. He’s not a true lockdown puppy, however, the idea of getting a dog was planted when we endured the first lockdown in early 2020.

Back then we were still renting and bound to landlords who’d specifically articulated that we weren’t allowed to have a pet. We lived vicariously through the lives of friends with their lockdown puppies, my kids blissfully dreaming of the day when they too would be walking their four-legged family member—and picking up its poo, which I frequently reminded them would be the case.

Kate Freeman and Harvey as a pup.

Towards the end of 2020 things were looking very promising that we’d be able to buy our family home. Along with that hope, came the absolute: we’d also be getting a dog. So, our names went down at a few breeders, the money was budgeted for (as by golly dogs are not cheap anymore) and by the end of January we’d already locked down a blue heeler pup before we’d even exchanged contracts on a house.

Fate, however, would have a different dog in mind for the Freemans. On a random Friday at the end of February, I sat in my office avoiding a mountain of emails by scrolling through Facebook.

A little black and white pup popped onto my screen. Cute, I thought as I went to mindlessly swipe on by. Oh wait. My cousin (who lived on a farm in rural NSW) was posting this photo and by golly, he’s actually up for grabs. Interesting. He was a kelpie x border collie. A ‘whoops’ litter from their two working dogs (who I’ve now learnt are rather horny as they’ve done it again this year!).

I messaged her and after a few frantic and very influential phone calls to my husband on how I was saving him $$$ with getting my cousin’s farm puppy, instead of a purebred, we had organised to pick him up a few days later.

And he’s just been the best. I’ve found running my own business, and for the last two years in particular, I’ve found it extremely stressful with anxiety at an all-time high.

Getting Harvey has forced me to work from home more, take more breaks and training him has given me something extremely joyful to focus on that isn’t work. He has well and truly made me a ‘dog lady’ and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Harvey growing bigger by the day and clutching his favourite toy.

Lockdown this time round, with this 9-month-old terror as part of our family, brings us nothing but laughs, cuddles, and tricks. He’s very energetic, but my diligence in training has made him a super good dog.

Or maybe it’s got nothing to do with me and he’s just a great temperament. Either way, he’s been an absolute joy and it’s like he was made for our family. Our daily walks are the best part of lockdown and I’m so glad we had a puppy in lockdown this time round!

Ginger Gorman and her baby chicks

As a freelancer, I’ve WFH for a long time! But that’s a treat—working alone in a lovely, quiet office overlooking the garden on your own clock. WFH in Covid is a totally different ball game…trying to single parent, work three jobs and homeschool. Honestly, I’ve found it really tough.

Ginger and her baby chicks. Poop is an issue but they are cute enough to get away with it for the time being.

I lost my mind having the kids home the first few weeks of lockdown and cried quite a few times! It’s very hard when all your normal supports—including school and after school care—are taken away.

As with so many families, there isn’t a spare 1950s-style mother in the cupboard ready to take care of the kids 24/7 in a pandemic. I would have preferred a different style of online learning if we had to do it that one—one where teachers were effectively teaching the kids online and supervising their work. Not just expecting parents were equipped to do that. I had to keep a roof over my kids’ heads!

But it’s not easy for the kids either. They are anxious about COVID and lonely and isolated too. They miss their friends and can’t really understand the full ramifications of a global pandemic.

We’d been waiting six months for these baby chicks and they couldn’t have come at a better time. They are Pekin Bantams, a breed that makes great pets for kids.

Then when they were born, the chicks were across the border in NSW (we’re in the ACT). So it was like organising a complex military operation trying to get them. Because I wasn’t actually allowed to go into NSW for that non-essential purpose.

Anyway, I finally found a lovely ABC producer—Geo Donaldson—who lives in NSW but works in the ACT. She managed to legally collect them for us!

The kids were ecstatic the day their chicks arrived. We named them Raven, Gherkin and Prello. And we’re hoping they are girls because you can’t easily keep roosters in the suburbs—they make so much noise.

And honestly, there’s nothing better than cute little baby animals to cheer everyone up. I’ve noticed the kids are so much more happy and cheerful since they arrived.

Yes, they do poop all over the house. But I think it’s worth it just to give my kids so much joy at such a hard time.

Out for the count. A baby chick massaged to sleep.

 

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