When the Corvo family adopted young Twyla, a black lab rescue worker, in May 2020, they had only seen her in one picture.
But it wasn’t long before the family realized that they “was undoubtedly the dog we never knew was meant for us,” said Christina Corvo.
Twyla loves performing at virtual school meetings, has declared the court her kingdom, and “worships all the attention she can get”.
“It has definitely brought us joy during this difficult time and it has been a fantastic way to distract my children from the seriousness of the world around us,” said Corvo from Somerset.
Nationwide, animal shelters and humane societies have said they cannot keep up with the number of people wanting to adopt dogs during COVID-19 – the madness that started with stay-at-home orders and quarantines. And experts say the desire for adoption is not waning as many New England animal shelters have resumed transportation of pets from across the country.
Some people have always wanted a dog and postponed adoption for years, telling themselves to wait until the “perfect time” while others, suffering from pandemic depression and isolation, needed one to get out of bed.
“People do this for their mental health, for their self-sufficiency, to feel loved when they can’t have that physical connection,” said Erin Alamed, volunteer and outreach director for the Humane Society of Chittenden County in South Burlington , Vermont. “Trying to fill the void, no matter what that void is. Feeling connected to something, distraction, entertainment.”
The influx of new puppies can also be seen on the south coast at dog parks and animal shelters, including JB’s Indoor Dog Park in Norwell. Owner Jackie Brady says she only set up extra puppy play time on Saturdays to accommodate any new puppies.
Brady said it reopened to the public after the COVID-19 shutdown in July, and by September she had added puppy playtime on Saturday morning, which now has about 25 puppies a week compared to the Thursday playtime she has before the pandemic only had three or four puppies, along with older dogs.
“They brought good luck to the people who are kind of stuck around the house,” Brady said of the pandemic pups.
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Lisa Dennison, executive director of the New Hampshire SPCA, said people who have always wanted pets are now “not commuting to Boston or Portland” and giving them plenty of free time to look after a dog. Pets have also given “a reason to walk down the street” for those struggling with COVID-19 depression.
“You really were that joy and that comfort and that companion,” Dennison said. “Pets really became a central issue.”
More: An Itch – The demand for pets on Cape Cod is exceeding supply at animal shelters
“The mood in our house has changed”
Scituate-resident Kathleen Malley said she adopted her 10-year-old Portuguese girl Podengo, Dina, from the Scituate Animal Shelter in February after moving to town in July.
Malley said she has had dogs almost always in her life, and now that she is retired she can be at home.
“It just makes it more of a happy home. It honestly makes it more joyful to have a dog, ”Malley said.
The Pittsfield-based Craft family had wanted a dog since losing their dog in 2018, but a tumultuous start to COVID, including Chris Craft being laid off from work, made it difficult.
In September they made the leap and adopted Lea, a mix of black lab and gold from Georgia.
“The mood in our house has changed,” said Jeanna Craft. “Stress seemed less. We laughed. Happy. Active. Playing. Life seemed normal. As normal before COVID. Without the social fun.”
In November, after Chris found a new job, he was on leave due to COVID. Lea helped him to survive another stroke of life.
“He was shocked,” said Jeanna. “Having Lea was a lifesaver. If he hadn’t had this dog, I’m not sure how he would have survived another stay at home.”
People have fallen in love with dogs everywhere, and sometimes in unlikely ways.
In Framingham, months after the pandemic started, Tracy Moutafis received a call from her husband while he was fishing at a local pond. He had “discovered a little dog with a blue harness, huddled under a bush, trembling and frightened.”
After trying to find the owners, the family decided to take Niko in as their own, although they never intended to have a second dog. Even so, Niko became their pandemic puppy and they never looked back.
“You wouldn’t believe how adorable this dog is,” said Moutafis. “I will always tell his story of how he came into our lives.”
Will my dog be sad when I return to work?
As the world opens up again and the time families spend at home decreases, this can be a transition period for pets.
Companies plan to make offices more pet-friendly when employees return
OnePoll surveyed 500 C-suite executives and 1,500 pet owners and found that companies want to be more flexible and animal-friendly after the pandemic.
Lisey Good, a board member at Scituate Animal Shelter, said she worries when people return to work after the pandemic that their dogs may experience separation anxiety as they are not used to being left alone.
“It’s a big problem when a dog is used to having people around the clock and then all of a sudden the dog’s world changes because people are suddenly away a lot,” Good said.
The Alamed of Vermont encouraged dog owners to prepare now if they want to return to the office this summer. Get out of the house several times a day, she said, and gradually increase the amount of time you are away.
“Hire this coach now to prepare for this transition,” she said. “For people who have adopted or will adopt before everything really opens up, they have realistic expectations. These are animals, bottom line.”
More: The New Bedford dog trainer warns pet owners to prepare for pandemic separation anxiety
Some of the pandemic pups have never been home alone on weekdays.
Rebecca Regniere, of Smithfield, Rhode Island, brought Roxy – then about 12 weeks old – home from Little Rhody Rescue and just two weeks before COVID-19 closed the country in March 2020.
“Roxy has been a blessing and a wonderful addition to our family in such a difficult year,” said Regniere, who worked from home with Roxy by her side.
But Regniere said she had to go back to the office at some point.
“I think this is probably going to be a difficult transition for Roxy as she has never really been without anyone, but she is a really good bitch and I have no doubt that she will get used to a new routine pretty quickly,” she said.
In New Hampshire, Dennison said her organization has seen a surge in behavior and training activities – people who want their dogs to be well socialized after the pandemic ends.
She worries about the potential impact on pets if people return to regular or more serious travel due to the deepening housing crisis exacerbated by COVID.
“We hope that all of these companions, so joyfully acquired during the pandemic, will joyfully stay in their homes.”
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