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The Big Winners: Dogs

By Shlomo Maital

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   There is one big winner in the COVID-19 “shelter at home”: Our dogs. Like Pixie, our mixed-breed part-Yorkshire. We’re always at home, so any time is play time, and she brings us her rope and her weasel, to throw and play fetch. Then it’s walk time – it’s legal under partial ‘shelter at home’ to walk dogs, so she gets many daily walks, and we benefit from the fresh air.

When it’s TV time, she curls up on our laps, and as an equal opportunity dog, divides her presence between myself and my wife. She does her little circle – legacy of her wolf origins, who circle before lying down to sleep – and tucks in at our feet, her right ear straight in the air, alert and listening even when she sleeps. All this, in 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds).

Dog cognition expert Alexandra Horowitz, Barnard College, writing in today’s New York Times, observes, “[Dogs’] simple presence, and their willingness to be touched, is viscerally satisfying. Time spent reading on the couch is massively improved by a dog’s head resting on my leg, a warm snuffling muzzle directed at me is instantly calming. …there are some 90 million dogs in the US and in some ways we have treated dogs as quasi-people all along. “.

   Horowitz notes that normally dogs experience social isolation, as the owners are at work. They stay alone for most of their days. Now that WE are in ‘social isolation’, we are giving dogs ‘more of what they deserved all along – our companionship’.

One of the benefits of COVID-19 is a major rise in dog adoption. “…shelters that recently put out calls seeking foster care for homeless animals reported being inundated with applicants…”.  

Concludes Horowitz: “I hope we will maintain some of our current abnormal condition, giving our dogs the companionship they need. I hope we will come out of this with a fuller appreciation of the privilege that it is to keep the company of animals.”

Pixie: Thanks! We love and need you.

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital

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