CALGARY — Melissa David has seen the toll pandemic-related financial and physical strain can have on pet owners.
She runs a charity called Parachutes for Pets, which provides subsidized pet care including food hampers and medical care, for low-income residents.
“We put out 200 hampers the last two weeks of March. Normally we do about 25 a month to older people,” Bond said.
“People were literally sending us pictures of their last cup of food in their dog bag. We’re like okay we’re going to have to pool our resources and try to do what is absolutely urgent for the next month or so or however long this goes on.”
David feels strongly about making sure pets are taken care of during the COVID-19 outbreak. After all, she relies on her three dogs for support.
“They’re absolutely my lifeline. Just having their companionship and their support. My husband’s a truck driver so he’s not always home so having them is huge.”
Humane Canada, which represents humane societies and SPCAs across the country, is urging Canadians to consider their pets as part of their emergency preparedness.
“First of all, I’ve got to have enough in the house if I have to be quarantined then I need a couple of weeks of medicine and a couple of weeks of litter; a couple of weeks of food for my animals,” said Barbara Cartwright, the CEO of Humane Canada in Ottawa.
“What happens if I get sick and I get incapacitated or hospitalized? What’s the plan for my pet? Who will take care of them?” she asked.
“We’re recommending that people have at least three contacts that they can call upon to take care of their animals should they end up being hospitalized or they can no longer care for their own animals.”
Cartwright said the current pandemic has reinforced how important pets are in people’s lives. She said people also have to make sure that their furry friends observe social distancing from other animals and humans because in rare cases the animal can become infected as well.
“There’s no evidence that they can transmit to us but there is growing concern that we have to protect our pets from either getting it from other animals or getting it from other humans,” she said.
“If we’re sick we need to stay away from our animals.”
Jeanette Simeonid of Calgary spends nearly every waking moment with her two French bulldogs. One is a year old, the other is three-and-a-half months.
“I think I would go nuts if I didn’t have them because at least I can take a break and go for a walk if I need to just to get some fresh air and they totally keep you company. There’s always someone to talk to, to laugh with,” she said.
“I don’t know what I would do without them. You’re never alone. Even if you’re quarantined you’re never alone.”
Joanne Ginter, a senior psychologist with Sundancer Psychological Services in Calgary, said one of the best ways to deal with anxiety or depression during the pandemic is to have a routine, and that’s something pets require from their owners.
“The pets give you a schedule, which I think is very important for people because schedules help with anxiety, schedules help with depression. It gives us something to do during the day,” she said.
“The pets give you connection to another living being,” Ginter said.
“Any time that you feel out of control it helps if you have someone else to care about and pets give you that.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2020.
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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press