“Esther Everest Bergemann, spit out that grass! Yucky! You do not eat grass!” I hear this daily as my children play outside with our newest addition to the family. No, she’s not a goat or a cow (we would expect them to eat grass). She’s our corona puppy. A puppy who apparently loves to eat grass. A puppy with a sense of humor that fits perfectly with my little family.
Our newest addition, Esther (arrived March 7th, 2020), is a healthy black and white-haired Old English Sheepdog. COVID-19 is all she’s known. Before we educated ourselves on the impact of separation anxiety on pets, we were spending night and day with her, well, because we couldn’t go anywhere like we ordinarily would have been.
Never had I expected our new canine arrival to feel like such an infant addition to our family. Our eight-week-old puppy was just like a newborn baby, but furrier. She cried at night (which meant many sleepless nights for me), she pooed and pottied at her leisure, which we found ourselves keeping track of; “Did Esther poo yet?” or “Esther pottied outside today 5 times!”. Our fluffy-living stuffed animal drooled like a melting popsicle (leaving puddles wherever she cuddled), cut teeth, and chewed on everything she could get her mouth on (without being caught) until we found her a favorite “pacifier.” She turned out to be a great eater and even went to the vet because of it (cue chewing grass and sticks). If we wanted to meet strangers, all we had to do was have our fur-baby along, because people would “oooh” and “awww” and get their little baby voices out (you know the kind I’m talking about- the high pitched, cartoon talking coochie-coochie-coo voice) voices which were always accompanied with a creeping hand reaching for her black and white fuzz at the top of her head.
When I sprung the news that my husband and I decided to add to our family– with a puppy–it wasn’t an impulsive decision or one we took lightly; we both agreed that adding to our family was going to teach both our children new, life-impacting responsibilities, love for another creature incomparable to any other, and a kind of forgiveness they just didn’t know existed yet. (PS, click here for part one of this story.)
We were prepared and responsible dog owners who had a plan (I am laughing as I type this– seeing the irony in all of it and that thing called ‘hindsight”). The plan was that our kids were going to have a FULL WEEK with the puppy on their spring break, bonding, training, and falling in love; then things would resume back to normal when they went back to school. Three months later, we are stilllllll bonding, loving, and training our puppy.
We obviously never predicted COVID-19 and the impact it was going to have on our puppy when things eventually “go back to normal.” (Sidebar: Things aren’t even close to normal yet- as I am typing this I am outdoors on our patio, watching my kiddos swimming in a little pop-up pool with Esther at my feet chewing a bully stick).
It’s now July 9th, 2020, and our corona puppy has known a full house since her arrival on March 7th. I’m slowly becoming acquainted with a few “must-do’s” for people who have recently gotten a new pet (during COVID-19), and we implemented them gradually ourselves to ease Esther into the new changes.
Because Separation Anxiety is as real for animals as it is people, we’ve been making sure to spend some time “away” from Esther, so she feels comfortable in her cage while home alone. The first few times she was “alone,” it was for short periods of time (no more than fifteen minutes), and we were very near in the yard in case she became too anxious. She now takes naps in her “house” and feels safe in there; it’s her own little area she is comfortable with. During the night time, Esther sleeps in her house as well, but when she first started, we needed to have a noise machine next to her bed to drown out noises from the road or neighbors. (It is a water-ocean noise machine that we used for both my children when they were babies.)
Next, we make sure to keep her on a routine that will “fit” our daily lives when things go back to normal. Luckily, my husband is working, so her breakfast routine has always been the same. We’ve made sure to keep her lunch and supper times the same now as well, so they will work when (if) our kids go back to school and/or I go back to work. Keeping her food schedule on a routine has also helped with potty training because she’s on a regular schedule, and since she’s a puppy, she doesn’t always communicate the best when she needs to go.
As I am typing this, it’s allowing me to reflect a little on the last three months we’ve spent together at home with our new corona puppy, online schooling, online working (and doing lots of quarantine fifteen baking!). There were so many frightening details of COVID-19 from the beginning, but as a family, we rolled with it and took it day by day (still are!). Recognizing the scary parts means that I have to also recognize the positives that would have come from being at home: priceless family time, recognizing the resiliency in my kids (even when they too are sleep deprived because of a crying puppy), witnessing the creativity while watching kids train a puppy– these are all things I might have missed if COVID-19 hadn’t impacted our life.
Adding a pet to your family is a big responsibility, during a pandemic or not– Looking back, I’m happy to say we’d do it again in a heartbeat because seeing my children bond with a new family member was way better than we anticipated. The love we all feel for Esther is as if she’s been here since the kids were small; I’ve accepted the occasional accident (just like she was a child)– and– wait– encountering a small interruption:
“Esther Everest Bergemann! Put down that garden gnome! That is NOT a toy!” — ok, time’s up, back to pupper duty!