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The Pandemic Puppy Problem: It’s Dog Eat Dog (Not Really!)

Updated: May 12

By Bonnie Fishman


Juniper, Taco, and Ruby living it up in Los Angeles after being rescued
Juniper, Taco, and Ruby living it up in Los Angeles after being rescued

We could use some nourishment for the soul about now, something we all have needed for the past year and will going forward. I’m not talking about food today. I’m referring to that deep, beautiful connection many of us have with our pets. Who doesn’t welcome the companionship, undying love, cuddle-up-on-the-couch warmth during a pandemic? Wonderful!


Petfinders.com, one of the favorite go-to sites to find the dog of your dreams, has seen a surge of 79% over the past year. According to SimilarWeb.com, the internet searches are up to 20 million hits a month, a record high. Google Trends has also reported the increase of traffic to over 38% a month.


But what if you want a rescue dog and can’t get one if your life depends upon it? I have rescued dogs from shelters for over 25 years. We wouldn’t have it any other way–until now. Have you tried to procure the puppy of your dreams lately? Have you spent hours and hours poring over adorable pictures of dogs on rescue sites? Have you filled out a zillion adoption applications, only to be turned away? Well, I have. I bet if you haven’t, you must know someone who has been through this frustration. Filling out these applications, you’d think you were adopting a human baby. One lady grilled me on the phone for an hour and a half about my ability to take care of a dog. Excuse me, lady, this isn’t my first rodeo!


Of course, I was never really in the running because of age discrimination. Yes, that’s right. As if there weren’t enough discrimination going on in our society. There may be dozens of applicants for one dog. In the shelter personnel’s minds, are they going to give it to the retiree who may die before the puppy lives its full life? No, they award the pup to a young couple or family. No lie.


I know of many people, contemporaries, who have been faced with the same problem. Sue from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., lost her beloved senior dog before the pandemic. She must have filled out at least six applications and made dozens of calls over a six-month period to rescue leagues in her area. She, too, was grilled by the interviewer. One rescue place “hinted” that she and her husband

were too old. Hearing their ages, 70 and 72, there was that pause, and then “we really don’t want to have to re-home them if you, um, you know, die.” In the end, Sue and her husband bought a puppy, Mendel, from across the state.


Mendel
Mendel

Carol, who lives in Manhattan, lost her dog companion almost a year ago. Devastated, as most of us pet owners are when our best buds pass on, took a six-month break before she tried to adopt another dog. She has always been a rescue-dog person, sometimes having two in her living in her home at the same time. She must have filled out 20 adoption applications and no one called her back. Carol was able to visit a dog shelter recently and to no surprise, most of the dogs available were pit bulls or pit-bull mixes. I have met lovely pits but many are aggressive and unpredictable, especially around young kids. As a matter of fact, even if Carol wanted one, her building, like many in Manhattan, forbids pit bulls. So far, she is still “dogless.”



Marilyn and Barry from the San Francisco Bay area also searched and searched for a rescue, filling out applications to no avail. Barry was desperate for canine companionship. He went a different route after all of that frustration and time spent. He began calling breeders of small non-shedding dogs. Oddly, it was not to buy a puppy from their litters, but to actually buy a mother dog who would be retiring from having any more puppies. Bingo! It worked. After only a short time, they got lucky and adopted a lovely West Highland Terrier. Frosty is a well-behaved, already trained two-year-old.


Frosty
Frosty

We retirees are great candidates for having dogs. When the world is back to normal (eventually, right?), the kids go back to school, the parents go back to work, that pup will be sitting Frosty : home alone in its crate. Or better yet, destroying the house because he was abandoned. But those of us who don’t work, hey, we’re still home with Fido, able to give the pup the attention he needs. Long walks? Of course. A little frisbee, why not? An hour at the dog park? Who doesn’t love that socialization for both man and beast?



Many people I know have had to purchase pedigreed dogs and puppies during the pandemic. They are also difficult to find. As a recent article in the Washington Post confirmed, it’s a matter of supply and demand. During the pandemic, sales of puppies has gone through the roof. Aileen from California couldn’t find a black Labradoodle in the western states. She expanded her search and got Harper flown in from Indiana to California, to the tune of an $1,870 escort fee. The expense and lengths that people have gone through just to have a puppy! I get it, though.


Harper
Harper

I, too, HAD to buy a puppy. My daughter hunted down an English Springer Spaniel breeder some 300 miles away. The breeder met us halfway at a seedy truck stop to hand over the goods, Chester, an eight-week old, 18-pound. bowling ball of a puppy. He clearly nosed out the rest of the litter when it came to feeding time. Chester is now six months old and has grown into a handsome, sweet guy. The guilt around buying a dog instead of rescuing one has waned.


Butterball Chester at eight weeks and 18 pounds
Butterball Chester at eight weeks and 18 pounds
At four months and 40 pounds, Chester is a stunning fellow
At four months and 40 pounds, Chester is now a stunning fellow

My son Ben was also a recipient of one of my daughter’s rescues. A reluctant recipient, I might add. she found the perfect puppy for their family. Lula, a Weimaraner-Doodle mix, had a “trial” weekend at Ben’s house. You know how that goes: who’s going to give back a puppy? With two pleading little boys, Lula was added to the pack along with their giant lab rescue, Sadie.


Laid-back Sadie (left) and loving Lula (right)
Laid-back Sadie (left) and loving Lula (right)

There are those who take the animal rescuing to the nth degree. My daughter is one of them. She didn’t stop with finding dogs. At one point last summer, after doing weeks of in-depth research about African tortoises to ensure a successful rescue, she adopted Bert, a 40-year-old, 150-pound African Sulcata tortoise. That’s right, you heard me. He only lasted at her house a mere twelve hours. He wreaked havoc in her yard, eating any plant within reach and destroying everything that was in his path–chairs, planters, you name it. Bert had to go! It took the help of 4 neighbors to muscle him into her jeep. All was not lost. The next day, my daughter was given a rescue puppy, an 8-week old 12 ounce fox-faced Pomeranian, Juniper. Quite the contrast from Bert, wouldn’t you say?!


Bert chilling in the yard
Bert chilling in the yard

Then there was Petunia, an abandoned baby possum, found in her neighborhood. My daughter kept her in a sock, like the mother’s pouch, and fed her berry applesauce and kitten formula from an eye dropper. Petunia is thriving to this day in a possum rescue home. Go figure!


Petite Petunia is a nocturnal marsupial
Petite Petunia is a nocturnal marsupial

So the moral of this story: we do what we have to do to be comforted by the companionship of another mammal or two or three in our homes during these uncertain times. No judgment. Just love. We at the Insider welcome all photos of your pre-pandemic and pandemic pooches. Share your stories of where they came from and what they’re like by emailing them to editor@theinsider1.com.


Biscotti Enthusiasts: Australian Shepherds Pitch and Quick
Biscotti Fans: Australian Shepherds Pitch and Quick

I couldn’t resist doing a recipe. This is a dog-breath mint biscotti from my close friends Liss and Steven of Marin County. They have always raised Australian Shepherds. Their children. Who doesn’t want a dog with fresh breath, especially if they sleep in your bed?


Breath Mint Biscotti for Dogs


Yield: About two dozen


2 c. whole wheat or brown rice flour

1 Tbs. activated charcoal powder

1 lg. egg

2/3 c. milk, whole or low-fat

1/2 c. chopped fresh mint

1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley


Preheat oven to 400°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and charcoal. In another bowl, scramble together the egg and milk. Pour liquid into the flour. Add the chopped herbs. Mix with your hands until the dough comes together.


Flatten the dough on the cookie sheet into a patty until it is about 1” thick. Prick with a fork in rows so it doesn’t bubble up when baking. Bake for 20 minutes or so until it is set and begins to brown. When slightly cooled, cut the cookie into 1” pieces. Scatter on the baking sheet. Turn oven temperature down to 300°. Bake the chunks for another 10-15 minutes to dry out. Cool completely before storing in an airtight tin or freeze in ziplock bags and defrost as needed.



Mix dough together with hands
Mix dough together with hands
After flattening, prick with a fork
After flattening, prick with a fork
Just out of the oven
Just out of the oven
Cut into bars or squares before re-baking
Cut into bars or squares before rebaking



Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.

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