Hints on how to step back in without your COVID companion by your side…

For any of us that have four-legged or otherwise feathered, finned, scaled or furry friends, we are all grateful for the huge support they have provided throughout COVID-19. Pets, especially dogs and cats, are known to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, and encourage exercise and playfulness.

Maybe you had a pet prior, or you decided to welcome one into your life during the pandemic. Either way…It may be difficult stepping back into the world away from your pal after getting acclimated to a routine with them. Increased guilt and excessive worry can be common especially for individuals who display a strong attachment to their pets.

Here are some coping tips to help you step back into the world with your pet guilt-free:

Begin preparing yourself mentally…

As a lot of things are opening back up, it may also mean that you may be returning to work. Our absence may come as a sudden shock to our pets, but this does not mean your pet will be scarred for life!  Just as we have practiced resiliency every single day during COVID, our pets can do the same. Just as we are adjusting to new routines, we can help them adjust as well.

“This is Bailey, and she has been my constant shadow since the pandemic began and I transitioned to working at home. During a transition of moving around a bit during these scary times she is always that constant that provides support. Pets provide us that one certainty, unconditional acceptance, in times when many things were uncertain.”

– NY Project Hope Crisis Counselor

Implement a new routine…

Think about what your new routine will look like for you and your pet. What are some things you may need to do and your pet’s needs that you need to meet? For some pets like dogs, it may be helpful to plan a long walk, jog, or a game of fetch before you go to work so your pet can release pent up energy and it’s a great way to spend time together before separating for the day!

“I’d like you to meet my kittens, Tabs and Fiona. Besides providing constant comic relief throughout the pandemic, they have also had this incredible sixth sense of knowing exactly what I needed and when. Their unconditional love and happy purring spirits have been an excellent way to keep my mood lifted and encouraged that better days are ahead.”

– NY Project Hope Crisis Counselor

Get to know your pet’s signs of stress…

Knowing your pet’s triggers can be helpful in determining what it is that is bothering them. For a lot of pets, just like with humans, uncertainty can be anxiety provoking. Look out for signs of stress such as whining, whimpering, panting, pacing, or lying down appearing distressed. Your pet (such as a dog) may begin barking as you’re leaving your house, this may be a sign that they are feeling anxious that you’re leaving. However, within time the more you’re consistent with your new routine, the more familiar your pet will become of it and will be aware that you will return at some point later in the day easing some of that anxiety.

“Having these two has been the best thing for me during this pandemic. They sing, which brightens up the most dreary of days. But they’re also so silly, and they play and fly around, which makes me laugh. Other times, they’re just sweet and cuddly and I’m so glad they’ve become so close.”

– NY Project Hope Crisis Counselor

Remind yourself that pets speak to us through their actions…

Since our pets can’t directly speak to us, they will through frustrating actions like chewing and destroying blinds, doorframes, windowsills, furniture, or your personal belongings. Remind yourself that these actions aren’t done out of spite. These are all physical manifestations of stress or maybe just plain boredom they feel when you’re away. Practicing patience and compassion is important this time for yourself and your pets.

“I have never had a dog who loved hugs as much as humans, but Rocky sure does! He has been a sweet companion in our lives and has brought such joy during the uncertain moments.”

– NY Project Hope Crisis Counselor

Provide them with entertainment/space…

Leave your pets at home with interactive toys, televisions on, and secure and safe space with water. This can be helpful in creating a sense of independence while providing leisure.

“I am blessed to have the two sweetest co-pilots, Gus & Agnes. Nuzzled by my side at all times, they are the best source of comfort. Never lonely when they are nearby…”

Inform a neighbor that you would be returning to work…

Ask them to let you know if your pet is being excessively vocal, this way you can know if your pet is having trouble adjusting throughout the day. This can also enhance your relationship with your neighbor and help you connect with the people around you.

Reach out for help…

Consider working with a pet trainer if you’re finding that your pet is not adjusting well. Educational workshops and interventions can be informative and enhance our quality of life for both you and your pet. It can also help ease some of the guilt you may be feeling and build more confidence. Also, if you still don’t feel comfortable with leaving your pet at home, check out any pet daycares!

During the pandemic, we adopted a rescue puppy with special needs, named Ellie. Adopting Ellie has brought our family great joy, and she has taught us all new lessons in patience, flexibility, mindfulness, creativity and gratitude. 

Our puppy Ellie likes to get up early and listen to the birds, and watch the wind blow through the trees. She helps me to slow down and be mindful in the moment, appreciating nature’s beauty all around us.

Watching our puppy discover the world, helps us to see things from a whole new amazing perspective. Yes, she is a lot of work sometimes, but she has made our family complete!

How do I practice self-care?  My puppy and I like to take long walks and have mindful moments…

When our puppy gets the zoomies, how can we not laugh and smile? 😊

Our pets have been there for us through this journey and let’s try to be there for them as we’re adjusting altogether! 

New York Project Hope

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