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Pets are perfect companions during the pandemic's isolation. That means demand -- exceeding the supply

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Woodstock residents Mike and Emily Ulysses, and their 5-year-old blue heeler Tycho, exchange a friendly greeting with neighbor Suzanne Johnson (right), who is looking to adopt her own heeler. For thousands of years, animals – especially domestic animals – have strengthened and sustained individuals and families in many ways, across many cultures.

In this country over the past few decades, pets have become more and more integrated into the habits and lives of American culture. Pets are often there for comfort when people need them most.

And during the increased coronavirus pandemic, and our increased isolation, pets have become even more of a vital source of comfort. As expected, they are in great demand; and the supply is having a hard time keeping up. People are rescuing and buying puppies for their children, while adults are adopting pets for comfort and company.

In early September Woodstock resident Suzanne Johnson referred THE BEE to an article in the Washington Post entitled "Dog adoptions and sales soar during the pandemic". That August 12 article stated, in part, "Shelters, rescues, and breeders report increased demand, as Americans try to fill voids with canine companions." Johnson reported that Oregon Dog Rescue's website says it is receiving an average of 50 applications per dog at present.

Johnson shared her own months-long experience of trying to find a new dog during the COVID-19 pandemic. "I lost my beloved blue heeler [cattle dog; there are also red heelers] on June 13, 2018, and it is just in the past three or four months that I've decided I was ready to bring another dog home."

She searched many websites, including Puplandia Dog Rescue in Aloha, near Hillsboro; the Oregon Humane Society; Family Dogs New Life; Herd You Needed a Home (herding dogs); the Pixie Project; Petfinder; and, most recently, the Columbia Humane Society. Another source, God's Dogs, evidently has an oversupply and is bringing dogs up from Texas to the West Coast. Johnson's extensive search for another heeler or mixed breed dog, six years of age or older, has thus far not been successful.

Paula and Mike Burgess, Reed neighborhood residents, lost their shih tzu of many years in April, and began checking shelters around Portland – but concluded that most of the dogs were older ones with health issues.

The Burgesses then contacted various breeders, and put their name on waiting lists. They drove to Eugene and Seattle to see puppies. One died while being vaccinated before they got him; others looked traumatized; one became very aggressive after three weeks of adoption; and another breeder's earliest available puppy was to be in November or December.

A recent call from a breeder in Central Oregon took them to the tiny town of Moro to meet two male puppies. Paula recounts, "Many folks on the breeder's waiting list were holding out for a female, or for certain color markings, so we jumped ahead and met a healthy, cute little guy with a wagging tail. If all goes well, we'll bring him home in a couple of weeks. Wish us luck!" Such a long and difficult saga seems common these days, especially if the search is for a particular breed.

Besides breeders, of course many people go to shelters for "rescue dogs" or other animals. Laura Klink, Communications Manager for the Oregon Humane Society, reports that their "Second Chance" program is even more helpful during these times.

"In 2019 the Second Chance Program brought 8,000 pets to OHS from 75 different shelters. That number increased this year, with pets coming from other shelters within the Portland metro area, and from as far away as Oklahoma and California. Last year about two thirds of the pets adopted at OHS came through our Second Chance Program. The program gives these pets a fresh chance at a loving home in the Portland-area community."

Klink explained that during the pandemic, pets have become more accustomed to having owners around much of the time. To prepare pets for post-pandemic times, she advises, "Teach your new dog to be home alone with crate training, and leave him at home alone for small increments of time – and then build your way up to a few hours."

The OHS website shows photos and descriptions of different animals (including cats and other pets) up for adoption, as well as tips on care. Go online to OHS – www.oregonhumane.org – or look up some of the other agencies mentioned in this article.


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