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Pandemic pups: Pretend canine companions boost spirits during COVID-19

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WATCH: Getting out with a pet dog has been a great break for millions of Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. And as Gil Tucker shows us, some Calgarians are taking it one step further, with some rather unusual canine companions – Apr 15, 2021

Getting out with your dog is a great break for millions of Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And the sunshine and warm temperatures Thursday brought a lot of people and their pooches out to dog parks in Calgary.

“(Out with) our four-legged furry friends,” dog owner Kelli Wilson said. “Nothing beats that!”

Read more: ‘Super energetic’ Calgary dog becomes social media star during COVID-19 pandemic

Wilson and others visiting one park in the city’s southwest were in for a surprise: some of the dogs weren’t furry at all.

A woman in the neighbourhood, Arleen Bronson, had come up with the idea of creating stylized canine characters to provide some levity during the pandemic.

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Bronson had attached various items to rigid novelty leashes, with a stuffed cloth hot dog on the end of one leash labelled “A wiener dog,” while watches attached to another bore the label “Watchdog.”

Asked by one man about the purpose of it, Bronson replied: “To make you smile — it’s been a rough year.”

Read more: Online visits with therapy dogs offering comfort during coronavirus pandemic

As for the watchdog, Bronson explained that it was “a purebred Rolex.”

She had enlisted a couple of friends to help her take the pretend pups on a walk through the dog park.

“When Arleen first mentioned it, I said, ‘What?'” Darilyn Cowper said with a laugh. “But then the idea grew on me and I thought yeah, it would be fun.”

In coming up with the creations, Bronson was carrying on in the spirit of the volunteer work she used to do.

Read more: Canadians embrace pandemic puppies and other creature comfort during COVID-19 crisis

“I was a hospital clown and we visited patients, staff, everybody,” Bronson said. “It was really nice, to make them laugh and smile and forget about their troubles or their operations.”

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Bronson and her friends are now hoping their efforts bring mental health relief as the pandemic drags on.

“I think it’s wonderful that you’re doing this and it’s just really nice to see people get to smile and feel good,” dog owner Barbara Thorson said. “We all need it.”

Bronson says she enjoyed seeing the reactions to her canine creations.

“I just hope that it makes people feel better,” Bronson said. “And they get a smile after this horrible year we’ve all had.”

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