BY Amanda Barnard & Jamee McRae
Fattoush, a husky shepherd mix, begins his day with an early walk.
“The walk is his way to start the day and both [my husband] and Fattoush get to share a moment together as my husband’s job is much more demanding than mine,” says Lyndsey Kirwan.
Kirwan works as a product specialist at an IT company and her husband, Romain, is an engineer.
Fattoush, a young dog full of pep, was originally rescued five years ago in Beirut Lebanon by BETA and then by Rescue All Dogs (RAD) who took him to Canada. Fattoush found his forever home in Montreal with Kirwan and her husband this past September.
Like most dogs adopted during the pandemic, Fattoush is used to having his owner’s company twenty-four seven. Owners have also gotten used to having their dogs with them all day long.
Shelters such as Animatch are being cautious during the spike in demand for furry companions during the pandemic. Many of these dogs may become used to their owners being able to care for them around the clock and can form separation anxiety when their owners have to go back to work.
Kirwan explains that Fattoush can’t be alone at the moment as he has severe separation anxiety issues which they work on a little bit every day.
“There are moments in the day when he will ask for attention, which usually ends up being when one of us is on a call,” she says. “Everyone is in the same boat. A lot of our colleagues and clients also have dogs and are really understanding of the situation.”
It is these little life adjustments that new dog owners definitely welcome during the pandemic as they have a friend to keep them company.
Helen Lacroix, founder of Animatch, a dog adoption agency in Montreal, follows a strict vetting process when it comes to finding the dogs at her shelter a forever home.
“Animatch focuses on what the dog needs as opposed to what the prospective dog owners want,” she says.
Lacroix says that she does foresee “a lot of surrenders in the near future” for reasons such as destructive behaviour, crying and barking all day, and because some owners will simply not have the same amount of time that they used to have for their dog.
James Drooker is the medical director Clinique Veterinaire de Pointe St. Charles. He says sudden separation can have serious consequences for dogs.
“In some dogs it can cause things like self trauma, destructive behaviour when left at home, barking or vocalizing, hypersalivation, pacing, fecal or urinary accidents, depression or sometimes other manifestations,” he says.
However, while dog adoption agencies like Animatch are being thorough with the adoption process, they worry that dog breeders are profiting off of the increased demand for dogs during the pandemic and have little incentive to evaluate who is buying their pets.
Tara Macdonald fosters Mabel, one of the dogs who is used for breeding for Red Dog Canine Center Inc. According to MacDonald, there are more than thirty hopeful owners waiting for puppies from Mabel.
About three years ago, MacDonald originally set out to look for a rescue dog when she stumbled upon dogs retiring from breeding programs who needed forever homes. MacDonald says that she never envisioned herself getting into the whole breeding process but says, “When I saw Mabel, I said: I’ll do it.”
MacDonald does not know where all of Mabel’s puppies will end up, as there is no vetting process like at Animatch, though she has found several of them through the breeding company’s Facebook page. As for the whole idea of purchasing a pet, MacDonald doesn’t actually believe it’s necessary as there are already so many dogs out there in need of a home.
Thinsel, a seven year old husky brought to Animatch, who has suffered from health and behavioural challenges over the years, was adopted by a family, but then returned to Animatch as the owners realized that they could not properly care for or handle Thinsel.
The SPCA was able to help 4,841 animals get adopted in 2019 and 638 others transferred to sanctuaries, rescue groups or other shelters. The average length of stay for a dog in any of the Humane Society International (HSI) partner’s shelters was 29 days in 2019.
Contrary to many grim predictions as to what will happen to a lot of dogs after pandemic restrictions ease up, Nicholas Francoeur thinks the increase in dog adoptions could turn out to be positive. This past summer, Francoeur and his girlfriend Lee-Dia adopted Suzette, a purebred Australian Shepherd. Francoeur says they had wanted to get a dog for some time, and now was ideal as both of them were home and had time to devote to Suzette.
Francoeur says it’s hard to tell what will happen after the pandemic restrictions ease.
“There definitely will be some dogs that end up in shelters,” he says. “I think that most likely, a lot more people will continue to work from home after the pandemic is over. The world is changing and surely working remotely is something that is more plausible than ever.”
Ewa Demianowicz, the Senior Campaign Manager for HSI Canada agrees.
“It’s being said that a full-time back to office situation won’t be happening in the next year, as there’s been such a huge shift to working from home,” she says.
In the meantime, places such as Animatch look to people to foster dogs and believe this is one of the solutions to properly handling the increase in dog surrenders when people start going back to offices.
The future for Fattoush also looks positive as Kirwan says that her and Romain would be able to alternate work-in-office days. But Kirwan says that “they’ll just have to take it as it comes.”
For now, Fattoush lives a very full life filled with walks, and time spent playing at the dog park with Suzette.