What I learned from the Canterbury earthquake that is relevant to Covid-19

I consider myself to be resilient and adaptable.  In 1994 I moved to New Zealand on a great adventure.  Within weeks of my arrival, we were in the midst of the Auckland Water Crisis.  In 1998, there was the 5-week Auckland Power Crisis which I remember because I worked in a multi-story building and had to walk up internal access stairs, in the hot summer months with no air, as an asthmatic.

These crises were nothing compared to the February 2011 earthquake in Canterbury, a shallow earthquake of 6.2 magnitude that hit us at lunchtime on a working day with multiple deaths and two collapsed buildings.  Most of the central city was evacuated and closed down and my office was included (eventually to be demolished like many others).  We were home for many weeks, although we could socialise.  But we had water restrictions, the constant interruptions of aftershocks on our frayed nerves, and the uncertainty about our work and future.

Tonight, at midnight, New Zealand goes into mandatory isolation for a minimum of four weeks.  I am again at home.  My canine companion is Izzy, whereas back in 2011 it was my dear Daisy.

Daisy birthday portrait


For those of us self-isolating with dogs, here’s what I learned from 2011 that is equally important now.

  1. Your dog loves having you at home.  However, most dogs sleep for the better portion of the day.  So don’t keep going over and cuddling them at every opportunity because this wakes them from deep sleep and the lack of sleep can affect their health.  Leave them be!
  2. Your stress is their stress.  Dogs are intuitive and sentient creatures.  They know something’s up.  Develop a new routine that gives both of you structure to your day and certainty.  Dogs thrive on routine.
  3. Exercise is useful for managing stress in both dogs and people.  That said, please remember that most dogs cannot cope with a sudden increase in their daily exercise.  Increase activity slowly. Many older dogs won’t cope at all.  Be watchful for signs of discomfort or pain (see my post from the aging dogs series about recognising pain and discomfort)
  4. Live in the moment, as our dogs do.  Accept the lockdown because you cannot change it.
  5. Shit happens
  6. We will survive (and thrive) – this is just a temporary glitch

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand


3 responses to “What I learned from the Canterbury earthquake that is relevant to Covid-19

  1. At the moment we are still exercising in the dog park in the afternoon, we are able to give each other space but yesterday I was struck by just how feral the dogs all seemed, most of them seemed over excited and just plan nuts, in some cases it was because of a decrease in walks but I couldn’t help but wonder if the dogs were not also picking up on everyone’s stress and tension.
    I sincerely hope we don’t have to isolate I hate to think what Ada will be like if we cannot exercise her enough. Living in the moment is great advice, there was just pure joy in watching Ada and Archie (a canine friend) chase each other around a tree this morning, Archie is a crafty little terrier and he was taking great delight in tricking Ada into going the wrong way. Our dogs make us smile and keep us company, we are so lucky to have them.

    • Isolation doesn’t mean you can’t exercise – it just means you have to remain in your local area. I am not a big fan of dog parks as they are breeding grounds for anti-social behavior, but understand that some people rely on dog parks because of their living situation.

  2. We were in complete not-out-your-house-ever (except like once a week to get food) for five weeks. Had to exercise the poor Bluetick & basset in the garden. It was so sweet to see them when we took them around the neighborhood for the first time! Everyone needs some adventure

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