A wonderful thing has happened while we all endure one of the most challenging experiences of our lives, and if the current pandemic can be said to have a silver lining it is this: animal shelters and rescue organizations across the country are reporting an actual shortage of pets to adopt. Many people have been under shelter-in-place orders for more than a month now, and loneliness has been a predominant issue, especially for those living alone. Quite a number have realized the answer to that problem was waiting for them at their local Humane Society or one of the many pet rescue organizations most communities now have.
These past couple of weeks have seen reports from shelters large and small, from LA to Chicago and even NY: their cages are emptying out and in some cases they have thousands more applicants for fostering and adoption than they have animals to place. It is true that some smaller shelters have challenges with staffing and maintaining safe distancing but most are finding ways to cope with the requirements. And their stories are uplifting even if you’re not currently inclined or able to join in the fun, so I’ve included links to just a few at the bottom of the page. Take a look – you may be inspired!
It’s a perfect win-win for both the 2-leggeds and the 4-leggeds, as one completely charming Schnauzer named Pluto has dubbed them. (See the link below for Pluto’s advice on Sheltering-in-Place.) One thing that can be vital to the success of adding a dog or cat to your household is devoting your time to just being with them, especially in the beginning of your relationship. Pets coming out of a shelter, especially, need time to really feel comfortable in a new home environment and bond with their new people, become accustomed to new smells, etc. For that reason I’ve often suggested that the best time to adopt is when you can take a week or more off from work so as to be home with the your new family member 24/7, and look at the wonderful opportunity we’ve been given to do just that!
Even when working remotely, you’re still home most of the time and can keep your new friend right there with you. I know I certainly appreciate having my cats and dog in my impromptu home office, even when I have to gently remind one of my cats that while tapping away at the keyboard may look like a lot of fun, he never learned how to spell so his participation really isn’t all that helpful!
But for those who are not working at all right now the solitude can become depressing, especially when coupled with our natural anxiety over the current situation and our fears about what the future may hold. I can think of few things more comforting than having an animal companion at one’s side, whether you’re flopped down on the couch watching reruns or tackling that list of projects you’ve been putting off for so long, or (best of all!) curled up reading a good book. Most of us can use a couple of nice walks during the day as well, and as long as we’re following safety protocols our canine companions offer the best motivation to get out and get some fresh air and mild exercise. (To be fair, I know of a few cats and some exotics that enjoy going for walks as well, but I’ve never been graced with one myself.)
For some people the time in home confinement will possibly be limited in duration, and their normal work life may be too busy or irregular to make adopting a pet reasonable. In these cases fostering may be an option. There are a number of reasons why an animal may need temporary care and if you think or know you’ll be returning to the workplace within a few months the timing could be perfect for a foster pet. It’s a good idea to check out the special conditions fostering an animal requires before you take the leap, so I’ve included a couple of their stories below as well. It can be very hard to bring an animal into your heart and home with the knowledge that it (probably) won’t be forever, but the reward of saving lives by doing so far outweighs the sliver of heartache we have to endure.
Aside from the welcome companionship of adopting a pet and the knowledge that you are saving a life by doing so, it’s a well-known fact that animals are good for our health! In these stressful times, our bodies as well as our mental state need all the help they can get to stay healthy, happy and strong. If you have ever considered pet adoption – or maybe even if you haven’t – it’s hard to imagine a better time to make that commitment. And take heart: many shelters may be celebrating their empty kennels and you may have to search a bit farther afield, but there are still many animals in need of a forever (or foster!) home, and maybe that’s your home.
Update January 31, 2022:
Here we are, almost two years later! Hard to believe, but most of the country is still dealing with the pandemic and many of the restrictions still stand. The shortage of pets available for adoption has been balanced out by a number of pets (mostly dogs) being returned toshelters as people head back to work (in some cases) or have discovered that they really don’t have the time or resources to take care of a pet. Animal shelters and rescue groups still need everyone’s help to place these pets in either permanent or foster homes, so if you’re thinking about taking in a furry companion it’s still a perfect time to do so. Just contact your local animal shelter, or try petfinder.com’s website to find adoptable animals in your area.