Being a pet during the COVID-19 pandemic had its perks. Adoption rates were sky high, shelters and rescue organizations had mile long waitlists, and pets enjoyed unprecedented amounts of quality time with their homebound parents.
One less desirous side effect, however, was the surge in separation anxiety rates between pets and their parents once the world reopened again. My husband and I experienced this firsthand with our dog, Brie. Despite our best attempts at crate training her after adopting her in 2020, Brie exhibited severe signs of distress whenever we left her home alone. Think: shaking, whimpering, crying, and barking.
In all other areas, Brie was a well-adjusted puppy. She was friendly with other dogs, loved people, and quickly mastered potty training and basic commands. With one or both of us at home, she roamed happily, napping by herself in other rooms. But when we tried to leave the house — even for a few minutes — her response was the same: utter panic.
Three years and countless hours of training later, we’ve made some progress, but leaving her home alone is still a struggle. She is extremely attached to us, and we are attached to her. The experience has led me to wonder: How are all the other pandemic pets doing? Below, a few pet parents who give us the update on how their 2020-era pets are doing in 2023.
Allison, who lives in Brooklyn, rescued her dog, Oliver, in January 2021 through Bideawee, an animal rescue organization. It was love at first sight when the pair met, and Oliver adapted quickly to his new home. A dog park across the street from Allison’s apartment provided ample opportunities for socializing, and a trainer came to meet them outdoors to work on leash training. Life was good.
Allison worked remotely until February 2022, when she had to resume going into her office three days a week. Although she trusted Oliver to stay alone in the living room, she set up a camera to keep an eye on him.
“At first, when I would leave the apartment, I would hear him crying,” Allison recalls. “I would obsessively check the camera all day, and he would just be sitting by the door. He seemed kind of sad, which made me sad.”
Eventually, she noticed a shift in his attitude. “All of a sudden, I felt like he became a teenager. I checked the camera one day and found him sitting on the living room table!” Mom wasn’t home, and he was making the most of it.
Allison acknowledges that the adjustment from being together 24/7 to spending time apart may have been harder for her than Oliver, sharing that she still struggles when she leaves him. On a recent work trip to Europe, she visited several dog-friendly businesses and found herself missing him. “I definitely have separation anxiety,” she admits. (Same.)
Today, Oliver is thriving…mostly. Allison and her boyfriend live together now, and he still works remotely, so Oliver has company during his days again. The couple started traveling with Oliver at a young age, and he is well-trained and happy when they bring him on vacation.
Still, when Allison has to leave on business trips, her boyfriend reports that Oliver seems especially stressed and needy. And when he is with Allison, he occasionally growls or barks at other dogs and people that try to approach them. “I’m not sure if it’s pandemic related or not, but he is very protective of me and can be wary of people,” she says.
When Catherine adopted her puppy, Finn, in Los Angeles, COVID-19 vaccinations were still a few months away, and most of the city was still sheltering in place.
“It was February 2021, so we spent most of our time indoors,” she recalls. Because of this, Finn learned to do his business on pee pads inside her apartment. While he was an affectionate and sweet puppy, he spent most of his formative months inside with Catherine and was reluctant to play with other pups when they visited the dog park. Fast forward two years, and Finn is still uncomfortable with the great outdoors.
Catherine says it’s a struggle to get him to walk on a leash, and he still hasn’t grasped the concept of going to the bathroom outdoors. “I’ll take him on a two-hour walk, and he won’t do anything. The second we walk into the house, he runs straight to his pee pads and does his business.” When she removes the pee pads all together, he has accidents in the middle of her living room.