Dispatches from Home: The dog days of isolation

You feel trapped inside your house and are running out of things to do, right? Here’s why quarantine-time is the best time to adopt or foster an animal in need.

Zippy, a 3-month-old retriever/pit mix, is among the dozens of dogs up for adoption through The Riley Rescue, a locally based rescue organization in South Jersey. With more time at home in the upcoming weeks, now is the best time to give a dog or cat in need a home. (Special to The Sun)

My eyes are tired from staring at computer and television screens for days on end. My back is achy from sitting at a chair at my makeshift desk (spoiler: it’s the kitchen table) at home.

I haven’t been out of the house in three days.

I’m healthy and so are my friends and family, which is obviously the most important thing for anyone as we wait out the novel coronavirus epidemic. But I’m also getting a little stir crazy.

COVID-19 hasn’t made its way into our household, but it’s still managed to hold us hostage.

As I run through my tasks — checking email, loading photos, making phone calls for interviews — I see a figure out of the corner of my eye. And then I hear a thump at my foot.

It’s a tennis ball that’s no longer suitable for tennis, but plenty suitable for Linus’s favorite pastime.

Linus, a 7-year-old rescue dog (perhaps a shepherd-Lab mix?) knows not of COVID-19, and like the mailman, neither snow nor rain (or a global pandemic) is going to rob him of his life.

And so I take the hint and take a break from work. Exercise is essential and a dog is as good of an excuse as any to take advantage of spring weather.

Feeling trapped? Bored? Looking for a new hobby until you can return to your old ones back in the good ol’ days when you left your house?

Foster or adopt a dog or cat in need of a home. Now.

To the left, Linus in the fall of 2012, while being fostered by Lisa Hughes in Cinnaminson through The Riley Rescue. By the time I adopted him in December of 2012, he was already house-trained and friendly around other dogs and children, too. To the right, Linus at the beach last summer.

Think it through: If you’ve already flirted with the idea of bringing a puppy or kitten into your home, there really is no better time than now. 

The excuse of not being home long enough for housetraining? It’s gone. 

And because some shelters across the country are having to close their doors to visitors or limit interaction to scheduled appointments — to adhere to keeping people apart and prevent the coronavirus from spreading further — there are more dogs and cats in need now, too.

The Riley Rescue, one of the many local groups that regularly rescues dogs from high-kill shelters in the South, was scheduled to pick up almost 60 dogs last weekend.

“Yeah, it’s a lot,” Washington Township resident Heather McKeever, one of the people that helps run the rescue, said with a laugh. “It’s two-to-three months worth of dogs (during normal times). And I already have another trip scheduled in two weeks. Our only hesitation is if (government restrictions) stop state-to-state transfer. That’s why right now people are trying to get as many dogs as they can up here, because if they stop it, then what are you going to do?”

If the dogs can’t be rescued from high-kill shelters, well, you probably know where this is going. And this is where you come in.

And here’s the thing: you don’t have to commit to having an animal in your home for the long-term. Rescues and animal welfare organizations are always looking for fosters for pets, too.

Lisa Hughes of Cinnaminson has made a long-term commitment. She guesstimated that she’s fostered around 600 dogs in the last decade, including Shelby, a 3-year-old mix from Alabama who was in rough shape after Christmas.

“She was found on the streets pregnant, she was put into a kill shelter and had her babies there, but she was in such bad shape that at two weeks she could no longer nurse them,” Hughes said. “We took the puppies, bottle fed them. All have been adopted. But she was so sick she couldn’t travel at first. 

“When she got here I expected a half-dead dog. Her skin was in bad shape, nutrition not good. Within a week, with a bath and getting regular good food, she was awesome. Absolutely freaking awesome.”

Lisa Hughes of Cinnaminson with her current foster dog, Shelby, a mutt with possible boxer and mastiff roots. Shelby will move into her permanent home next month via a successful adoption. Hughes estimates she’s fostered 600 dogs for The Riley Rescue rescue organization in the last 10 years. (DANIELLE JOYCE/For The Sun)

In two weeks, Shelby will move in with her permanent family in Delran. And Hughes will surely have replaced her with one of the 60-some pups headed North last weekend.

“If there’s a way to be selfish and do something good, this is it,” Hughes said. “Because when you watch a family walk out of here with tears in their eyes, holding this dog because they lost theirs, I can’t tell you how good that feels.”

Fostering a dog also increases its chances of being adopted. When they’re in high-kill shelters or first arriving in a temporary place, dogs often look scared or shy behind chain-linked fences or cages. But when they’re in a loving foster home …

“They see its personality,” McKeever said. “I had a dog on Facebook posted for two weeks. Not one inquiry. Not one. It went into a foster home and in one day I had 35 applications for the dog. Just from one picture the foster took of it all snuggled up on her daughter.”

If you’re looking to do something good during these scary times, if you’re suffering from cabin fever and need an excuse to get out, or you’re looking to give your kids an activity that will get them away from their addicting screens, give an animal in need a home through fostering or adopting. 

You have the time. They have the need. 

Now excuse me while I head outside to chase tennis balls with Linus.

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Dispatches from Home is a new weekly feature from Sun Newspapers. The smart and safe coronavirus epidemic isolations have surely left us all a little stir crazy. Each week, Ryan Lawrence will offer some ideas to keep you busy, entertained — or both.