Tag Archives: covid-19

Reflections on 2020, Covid-19, resilience and our dogs

I’m staying home tonight (New Year’s Eve), in my pajamas and with Izzy. As it should be. I don’t particularly like being out and about on New Year’s Eve, which is a holiday that seems to equate to lots of inebriated people, loud noises (often including fireworks), and general debauchery.

If you are one of my followers who is currently locked down due to Covid-19, I realise that it has been a tough year and that you are probably itching to get back to a normal social life. Try to see the glass as half-full – you are home safe with your dog.

As we see out 2020 and welcome 2021, I cannot help but reflect on the events of this year and the role our dogs have played in it:

  • The best lockdown companions you can have – dogs. We always knew that dogs are great companions but how much did they prove it to us (and continue to do so in many places) during lockdown?
  • Izzy was the host of Word of the Day during our lockdown and she also was the reason I was outside walking twice every day – as usual for us – but even more important for structure to our lockdown days and for the mental health that physical exercise and fresh air bring.
  • So many office-based jobs can be done from a home office – and how many dogs benefited from this? If my friends and clients are anything to go by – plenty.
  • My hope is that employees have proven their ability to remain productive in a working-from-home environment and, therefore, that employers will be more receptive to work from home arrangements going into the future.
  • Working from home cuts down on commuting times, reducing pressure on the environment from emissions which is good for the environment. And reduced commuting times mean added time for quality of life for everyone. More time typically means that dogs benefit from longer walks and bonding time with their owners – and both benefit from the companionship of having the owner around more. I’m not a big fan of commercial day cares, with dogs in an over-stimulated environment and walking/standing on concrete all day – working from home is such a better option for office-based roles!
  • Olive and Mabel – the rise of the dog superstars and their sports commentator Dad, Andrew Cotter. I loved watching all the YouTube videos with expert commentary by Andrew. What an example of “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” With professional sports shut down, Andrew directed his talents in a new direction and he and his dogs have become celebrities because of it. I haven’t read Andrew’s book yet, but it is on my reading list. Here’s one of my favourites from the Olive and Mabel YouTube series:
  • Teaching humans resilience. Dogs live in the moment and how much of that did we need in 2020? They didn’t understand a virus and the need to obey physical distancing. But they did it. And so can (and should) we!
  • A new respect for vaccinations and their role in society. I’m not an anti-vaxxer but I have a healthy respect for what protections proper vaccination can give. How many people are now totally reliant on a global strategy to vaccinate against Covid-19? It makes you think, doesn’t it?
  • Emergency planning – what happens if you can’t be there to take care of your dog? With the prospect of getting ill, many pet parents have finally made the time to make arrangements for their pets.
  • Adoption rates soar – a recognition that it takes time to settle in a new pet and a Covid-induced lockdown provided that time. And while there have been training challenges for puppies raised during periods where socialization hasn’t been possible, overall the role of a pet to support physical and mental wellness has never been more recognised.

The pandemic has also taught us about how much we rely on each other – for trade, for the manufacturing and the movement of goods, and for our economies. I am grateful to all who embraced SUPPORT LOCAL and have deliberately chosen my independent practice to support their dog’s needs, even when faced with reduced incomes and stress brought about by Covid-19.

As many of you know, I embraced Fear Free certification in 2018. Fear Free is about reducing fear, anxiety and stress in animals and promoting these strategies to professionals in pet care and to pet parents. My wish for you is that 2021 is also a Fear Free year – where we see an improvement in the pandemic, and for all those affected, the time and space to begin the healing process.

My best wishes to you and yours for 2021.

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

Pets, touch and Covid-19: why our furry friends are lifesavers

Lockdowns, job losses and social isolation have been the hallmarks of 2020 as COVID-19 tightens its grip on the world, not only infecting millions and leaving a mounting death toll, but also denying humans the most basic sense – touch.

In the absence of human-to-human contact, in millions of households worldwide, animals have stepped into the breach for many people, providing much-needed comfort via cuddles, pats and a constant physical presence.

A new study published by University of South Australia researchers points to the lifesaving role that pets have played in 2020 and why governments need to sit up and take notice.

The Journal of Behavioural Economics for Policy (JBEP) paper outlines how pets have a crucial role to play in an era where human-human contact can be life endangering.

Lead author Dr Janette Young says physical touch is a sense that has been taken for granted – even overlooked – until COVID-19 visited our door earlier this year.

“In a year when human contact has been so limited and people have been deprived of touch, the health impacts on our quality of life have been enormous,” Dr Young says.

“To fill the void of loneliness and provide a buffer against stress, there has been a global upsurge in people adopting dogs and cats from animal shelters during lockdowns. Breeders have also been inundated, with demands for puppies quadrupling some waiting lists.”

Spending on pets was already hitting record levels, topping $13 billion in Australia and in the region of US$260 billion globally in 2020, but this is bound to be surpassed.

It is estimated that more than half the global population share their lives with one or more pets. The health benefits have been widely reported, but little data exists regarding the specific benefits that pets bring to humans in terms of touch.

“Pets seem to be particularly important when people are socially isolated or excluded, providing comfort, companionship and a sense of self-worth,” Dr Young says.

“Touch is an understudied sense, but existing evidence indicates it is crucial for growth, development and health, as well as reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. It is also thought that touch may be particularly important for older people as other senses decline.”

In interviews with 32 people, more than 90 per cent said touching their pets both comforted and relaxed them – and the pets seemed to need it as well.

Examples of dogs and cats touching their owners when the latter were distressed, sad, or traumatised were cited. Many people referenced pets’ innate ability to just “know” when their human counterparts weren’t feeling well and to want to get physically close to them.

“The feedback we received was that pets themselves seem to get just as much pleasure from the tactile interaction as humans,” Dr Young says.

Not just dogs and cats either. Interviewees mentioned birds, sheep, horses and even reptiles who reciprocate touch.

“Animals, like people, are living, breathing others, with individual interests, styles and preferences. While culturally, animals are not seen as ‘human’, they are still seen as individuals with likes and dislikes.

“In the era of COVID-19, social distancing, sudden lockdowns and societal upheaval, our pets may be the only living beings that many people are able to touch and draw comfort from.

“Humans have an innate need to connect with others but in the absence of human touch, pets are helping to fill this void. They need to be considered from a policy angle, therefore, to help mitigate some of the mental and physical stressors that people are experiencing during this time.”

Dr Young says hospitals, hospices and aged care facilities should be encouraging pet connections with residents.

“Residential aged care is yet to recognise the value of human-animal relationships. Had more pets being living with their owners in aged care when COVID-19 restrictions were applied, it could have helped people immeasurably,” she says.

Source: University of South Australia

Izzy’s Words of the Day

Izzy is my greyhound and Poster Dog for The Balanced Dog, my practice in Christchurch, NZ.

During our lockdown (quarantine) for Covid-19, Izzy hosted Word of the Day on my Facebook page. Each word was selected for their relevance to canine health, fitness and welfare. I hope you enjoy this compilation.

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

Doggy quote of the month for June

sometimes you don't need words

I felt this quotation was particularly appropriate, given how many people are benefiting from the comfort of pets as they shelter in place, or return to work, in a world with Covid-19.

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

The best isolation companion ever

I have been a lover of dogs since, well, forever.  And now that we’re in lock down thanks to Covid-19, who better to have as your isolation companion than a dog?

IMG_5118[1]

Companions are those that we choose to spend a lot of time with and, in isolation, mental and physical health can be hard to maintain.  But dogs get us out for walks every day (and sometimes more than once a day – I think twice is better) and research has proven that for mental health – a loyal dog is one of the best supports you can have.

Through the simple act of running you hands through their fur, watching them play, or grooming them, your blood pressure lowers and oxytocin (the hugging hormone) is released. Dogs are experts at unconditional love – even when you’re a bit stressed or depressed at being isolated from your normal life.

Dogs are just plain good for the mental health of their human companions.

Consider that we’ve been locked down for 2 weeks….

  • Izzy and I haven’t fought once
  • We don’t compete for internet access or the television
  • I have more time to cook for Izzy and she’s quite happy about that
  • Our walks are longer, with no time pressures
  • Cuddling in bed is taking on a whole new importance for both of us, particularly as we are back on standard time and having cooler nights
  • Every day – or at least part of it when I’m not working – is a weekend

I hope that one of the lessons we learn from Covid-19 is the importance of pets and that all dog parents will continue to set aside quality time with their dogs.  And for those non-dog people, some of whom are probably going to be divorced this time next year, I highly recommend a dog.

In isolation or not – they are the best companion you will ever have!

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

The Online Dog Trivia Quiz

Dog Trivia Challenge for Facebook

We’re supporting our customers with dog-themed entertainment during the country’s Covid-19 shutdown.

Join us at 4 pm on Sunday, 5th April (NZ time) for our dog trivia challenge – think of it as a pub quiz without the pub! (you supply the drinks and snacks at your place)

Upon registration, we’ll send you a link to join the quiz using Zoom.  You don’t need a Zoom account to participate.  Simply follow the Zoom link that is emailed to you and you will be prompted to download and install Zoom when you click the join link in the email.  It’s always wise to try this before the quiz starts.

The purpose of this quiz is to have fun.  Write down your answers to each question and we’ll email the answers out after the quiz has finished so you can check and share your score.

We’ll draw one name at random from everyone who registers and that person will receive a prize pack of our dog treats worth $30 – we’ll ensure delivery after the lockdown is over!

***Only New Zealand residents qualify to win the prize pack but we would welcome participation from our overseas followers***

Book your place on the quiz here

 

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

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

Daisy

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