Pandemic pets a lifesaver to many Canadians during COVID-19 isolation

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Pandemic pets a lifesaver to many Canadians during COVID-19 isolation
WATCH ABOVE: Families expanded during the pandemic. For the first time, many brought home a new pet. Kendra Slugoski has more on how it helped people cope through the loneliness and lockdowns – Sep 14, 2021

Linda Huynh was struggling during the pandemic.

Her in-person treatment options for PTSD were limited and she was spending a lot of time holed up in her house.

“Literally, my life was dominos and the couch,” laughed Huynh, in Edmonton, Alta.

“I tried to contact my family and my friends as much as possible but you didn’t really have much to do.”

To help combat the loneliness and isolation, her psychologist suggested she get a dog. Huynh had never had a pet before.

She connected with a friend at a dog training centre and was introduced to a rescue dog name Mina.

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The Siberian Husky was a shy girl — recovering from physical abuse.

“Life changed after that,” said Huynh.

The duo then met Trixie, a Boxer Mastiff cross that had also been rescued and had previously suffered from parvo, an infectious virus that can lead to death.

Huynh went from living alone to a family of three.

“My life changed in days,” said Huynh. “I couldn’t stop smiling. I’ve never smiled so much having them.

“They’re just innocent loving pets that just want to be loved and that’s what I needed too, so it worked out.”

Click to play video: 'Worrying trend emerges in the aftermath of pandemic pet boom'
Worrying trend emerges in the aftermath of pandemic pet boom

The emotional support from her pets during the pandemic was huge. The dogs helped calm Huynh and forced her to focus on caring for others.

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“They would know instantly if there was something wrong and they would try to kiss me and paw at me,” said Huynh.

“I’m a lot happier. I feel healthier and they’ve brought so much joy to me than I can imagine.”

Hunyh also credits her physical health to her dogs. They forced her to get out for walks and enjoy the outdoors.

She quit smoking and drinking.

“I became more active. I interact with strangers who are also dog lovers. It got me out more than being on the couch and inside and trying to be away from everybody because of the pandemic.”

The Ontario SPCA said people from coast to coast welcomed new pets in to their families.

Nearly three in 10 Canadians adopted a pet during the pandemic.

“Over 40 per cent of Canadians actually ended up adopting through an adoption agency, which is really amazing,” said Kallie Milleman, media relations specialist for the Ontario SPCA.

“Over 80 per cent of pet parents said that their furry family members actually really helped relieve their stress.”

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The Ontario SPCA teamed up with Canadian Tire to host the Zoomie Awards, a virtual pet award show with a range of categories, including Top Snoozer and Co-Worker Of The Year.

The SPCA and Canadian Tire also surveyed 1,000 pet owners. Milleman said it was heartwarming to see so many adoptions.

The survey also showed that of those who adopted a new pet during the pandemic, nearly 31 per cent were first-time pet parents.

As people start to adjust their schedules for a return to school and worksites, Milleman said it’s critical to start transitioning to a new pet routine.

“Perhaps you were sleeping in a little bit longer or maybe your meal times for your pet were odd or maybe you were taking walks at strange times,” said Milleman. “It’s time to start bringing that routine back to what it would be when you have to go to work.

Milleman stressed consistency and routine is important to an animal and its owner’s well-being.

While it’s a reality some families may be faced with the tough decision to give up their animal to be rehomed, Milleman said the goal is to keep families together.

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“We want to keep pets with their families, that really is the best thing for everybody.”

Milleman urged pet owners to reach out to the SPCA for advice and resources if they are struggling to keep their pet healthy and happy at home.

For Huynh, her new routine involves daily walks with her dogs and socializing with other dog lovers.

“I couldn’t imagine not having them,” said Huynh of Mina and Trixie.

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