There has been a boom in pet adoptions during the pandemic, but it’s important to make sure the pet will fit into your post-COVID lifestyle before adopting.
Extrovert Joaquín Guerra struggled with the isolation that came with working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. For months, the San Antonio, Texas communications consultant sought a canine companion but never quite found the right one.
“I was looking for a dog in the spring,” Guerra said. “I’d find a pet I liked and I’d inquire about it, and it was already being adopted or being fostered.”
Just when Guerra was about to give up the search, a dog found him. While Guerra was visiting his family’s ranch in South Texas in October, a friendly pup showed up.
“He kind of popped up from underneath a truck that’s parked at the ranch,” Guerra said. “He was just skin and bones, dehydrated, skinny but a very sweet, great-looking dog. He looked like he was dumped there. You could just see the desperation in his eyes.”
Alarmed at the thought of no one looking after the puppy, Guerra eventually took him in.
Today, he and his furry friend, Chuy, spend their time together taking routine walks, cuddling and watching TV. Chuy has also helped Guerra stay active.
“He has just been incredible for me,” Guerra said. “In my own self, I see a change in being more active and getting outside more and in that respect he’s been a Godsend.”
Chuy loves to be comforted and requires a lot of attention, Guerra said. But with Chuy, Guerra feels less alone.
“It’s hard to be cooped up inside and, despite Zoom meetings and conference calls for work and catching up with friends, to be able to have that companionship and stimulation is really great to have,” Guerra said.
Like Guerra, many US residents are adopting or fostering pets to cope with the mental stress of being locked down during the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in an economic boom for shelters, nonprofit rescuers, private breeders and pet stores.
Research shows pets can improve both physical and mental health. During a time of crisis, the bond with pets can also help alleviate feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
Before choosing to adopt, Guerra said people need to also consider how the pet will fit into their lives when the pandemic ends.
“It’s not panacea,” Guerra said. “There’s a pet that’s depending on you and wants to be with you and you have to take that into consideration.”
Gabrielle Gonzáles, a San Antonio, Texas elementary school teacher, said her cats she adopted this year have helped her to take better care of herself during this busy and stressful school year.
“I am someone that struggles to rest or slow down and they just remind me that it’s OK to take a nap in the sun,” Gonzáles said. “They also remind me to drink water when they’re meowing at their bowls, and I’m like yeah we all need to drink water now.”
This is Gonzáles’s first time living by herself, and the pandemic made it harder. When a coworker found a black kitten roaming around alone in June and notified her about it, Gonzáles knew it was meant for her. She took the kitten home and named him Roary.
A month later, she adopted an adult cat named Aldo to keep Roary company as she prepared to return to teaching in person after the summer break.
Gonzáles encourages others to adopt but recommends they thoroughly research where they are adopting from first.
“It wasn’t as smooth of a process and it caused me a lot of stress,” Gonzáles says. “I would have done more research, but still no regrets on bringing Aldo home.”
Roary is playful and energetic while Aldo is laid back and takes frequent naps. Like most cats, Roary and Aldo are also independent, which makes it easier for Gonzáles, who has a busy schedule.
“They have just been such an incredible addition to my home and have helped me so much with my own mental health,” she said. “I never feel alone. I thought living alone would be such a lonely thing and now it’s not.”
Austin, Texas resident Samantha Gamboa, who works in digital marketing, said it was a challenge to secure her new dog Tito because of the demand for pets this year.
Gamboa had always wanted to adopt a dog and the pandemic reinforced that.
“There were dogs I wanted to adopt that got adopted under me so I would check shelters and rescue sites like three times a day,” she said. “It definitely was much more competitive than I ever thought it was going to be.”
Once she found Tito, a Chihuahua and Dachshund mix, Gamboa immediately applied to adopt him and finally got him in May.
Although just a small, 10-pound pup, Tito has a big personality and is very protective.
“He’s definitely a mama’s boy,” Gamboa said. “ He follows me everywhere and he loves to be carried around. We’re definitely codependent. If I go somewhere, I definitely try to bring him. I love being able to be home with him.”
Gamboa adopted Tito but she says he “saved” her, adding that having another personality around has helped keep her sane. Tito also helps to keep her on a healthy schedule.
“Working from home, all the days kind of blur together and you can forget to even leave your house at all in a week if you don’t need groceries or work from home,” Gamboa said. “For him I have to get up and take him outside and stay on his feeding schedule. I can’t sleep the days away like I probably would otherwise.”
Gamboa said it’s a good time to adopt while pet owners can provide training and build bonds at home. However, she recommends considering the long-term commitment and responsibility that come with pets.
“You need to know that it will still fit in your lifestyle after the pandemic” Gamboa said. “But if you wanted a pet before the pandemic and you know that you can do it, now is the perfect time.”