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What's NEXT for dogs?
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What's NEXT for dogs?

Tuesday was dog’s 10th birthday. It was also the first day he’s been left alone at home alone for an entire work day since, oh, March 2020. (I know, we are monsters.)

Return to office — or RTO, as I’ve seen it be referenced, I guess so it’s analogous to WFH – has and will continue to be tough on our dogs.

Though he’s been around long enough to experience work days, Samson, my Shih Tzu/Maltese mix, has gotten very used to having both me and my husband at home every day. He’s a persnickety creature of habit who also somehow knows what time it is. He knows he gets a walk at lunchtime, a snack at 3 p.m., and dinner at 5 p.m., which is a vile prescription pâté that is slowly bankrupting me, served with a little painkiller au jus to manage a couple of new middle-aged ailments.

Otherwise, Samson is a dog of leisure. Because he’s a spoiled angel baby who has no job, he spends his time napping in various sunbeams — nice life — and is often the last to leave our bed in the morning. One time, I heard him jump out early, so I asked him if he wanted to come with me on my morning walk and he literally pretended he didn’t see me. He just Pink-Panthered on out of there while avoiding eye contact.

Jen Zoratti with her pet dog, Samson. (Supplied)

I miss him! I wonder what he’s doing while we’re at our respective work places — I know the answer is “see above,” but still. I know he’ll quickly settle into a new normal, especially since I’m doing a mix of newsroom days and work from home days.

Still, I know for other dogs the adjustment to return to office has been be rough –especially the pandemic pups acquired during those early months of lockdown. A survey released last June found that 3.7 million Canadians – which is roughly 10 per cent of the population – adopted, purchased or fostered a cat or a dog during the pandemic. That number has likely grown.

I wrote about this trend in the very early days — May 2020, in fact — and it made sense people were looking for joy and companionship in the form of a wiggly puppy (or, in several cases, the form of a senior cat, bless those folks), or thought lockdown was a good time to finally pull the trigger on pet ownership because “everyone is home.”

The rescues I spoke to viewed this trend in a cautiously optimistic way, but stressed that pets are not just COVID commitments. Dogs are a lot of work, and require not just love and care, but exercise, training and socialization. As one spokesperson said, “we want to make sure that people consider that life will go back to normal."

Well, the pandemic lasted much longer than anyone could have anticipated, and many of those pandemic puppies aren’t puppies anymore, and are now suffering from separation anxiety. The owner of a Toronto doggy daycare quoted in a Maclean’s article said they’ve gone from approving 90 to 95 per cent of dogs, to only approving about 60 per cent due to anxiety.

So, what to do? I wrote about that, too — in June 2020, which feels hilariously optimistic to me now. (“As Manitoba slowly gets back to normal” is an actual phrase included within, which is just so naïve it’s actually cute.)

Ashley Reid-Oyemade, the trainer I spoke to, had good advice, including working your way up to leaving without your dog — who, by the way, needs some alone time, too.

"I find, a lot of the time, it’s boredom, frustration, lack of exercise, or lack of mental stimulation more than true separation anxiety," she told me. "A lot of the signs are very much the same — so the dog is wanting to get out of the kennel, or is whining, or being destructive — so it can kind of mimic (separation anxiety).

"But when you start fulfilling the needs of the dog, those signs start to go away, whereas with separation anxiety, sometimes the dog has to be medicated or requires more behavioural work."

Tell me: how have your dogs been coping with RTO? Did you adopt during the pandy? How are things going? Email me!

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti, Columnist

Jen Zoratti

p.s. Speaking of pets, May’s book in the Free Press book club is The Accidental Veterinarian: Tales from a Pet Practice by Dr. Philipp Schott, and I will be hosting the meeting. You can sign up here.


I absolutely devoured and loved Life and Beth, a surprisingly tender little dramedy from comedian Amy Schumer. Schumer is Beth, a woman approaching 40 who decides to shake up her life following a trauma, and meets an unlikely match in John (Michael Cera), a farmer. I had my doubts about the chemistry between these two, but they’ve got it. I also love Susannah Flood, who plays Beth’s awkward sister Ann. You can watch Life and Beth on Disney+.

Amy Schumer plays a grieving woman who returns to her Long Island hometown in "Life & Beth." (Marcus Price/Hulu/TNS)



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