Smile Politely

Is everyone getting a new dog?

Our next-door neighbors just adopted a chocolate lab, Max. It’s their second dog. Our neighbors two doors down are in the process of adopting a dog. My friend, whose family has never owned a dog, is also looking to adopt. Is this a pandemic trend?

If Google Trends provide any indication, it is. U.S. data show searches for “adopt a puppy near me” surged between late February and April of this year, reaching a 5-year high in mid-April. While interest in adoption has waned a little since the peak period, it continues to be higher than in previous years. 

It seems we’re looking for man’s best friend to serve a new role now: pandemic buddy.

Roxee, a brown dog, is sitting outside surrounded by leaves with a purple leash attached to her. Photo from Champaign County Humane Society Facebook page.

Photo of Roxie, available for adoption, from Champaign County Humane Society Facebook page.

I checked in with the Champaign County Humane Society (CCHS) and Animal Control of Champaign County to uncover the local trends in dog adoption. Both of these agencies reported that rates of dog adoptions have remained largely unchanged. However, Mary Tiefenbrunn of the CCHS added that their dog intakes have been lower during 2020 and each dog available for adoption is now limited to five scheduled appointments.

Given these new kinds of limitations, the number of adoptions may not reflect the demand for new dogs in this area. Not everyone who is looking for a canine companion can find one.

Nova is a black dog with white patches, wearing a purple collar. There is a child next to the dog wearing a pink, blue, and white, multi-striped shirt. They are looking out of a window. Photo by Christa Bonk.

Nova and her human, AJ, looking out of a window together. Photo by Christa Bonk.

Christa Bonk of Champaign recently adopted a rescue dog, Nova. It was quite the lengthy process. When I inquired whether their decision to adopt was pandemic-related, Christa replied, “No, actually!  We had a hard time adopting because of the pandemic. We have had four other boxers and lost our last boy Bo in early March of 2019. My husband told me for Mother’s Day that it was “time” to have a dog again. I was so happy! And then we looked and looked and looked…and looked… We applied for many dogs, but most of the time, by the time we applied, the dogs had already been adopted or had a “long line” of families waiting! It was wonderful (for them) and crazy for us. I stumbled across Nova being given away for free from her breeder. We worked with a rescue because puppy mill mamas can have very hard lives and need a lot of support. We would have gotten a dog this year either way. I have really missed having boxers around our house.”

Jackson, a black dog, is sitting and looking up at a boy. Jackson is wearing a red collar and a blue leash. The boy is wearing a shark shirt and is looking down at him with his face mask partially off. Photo by Ellen Byron.

Jackson from Qatar and his human posing for a photo. Photo by Ellen Byron.

Some would-be owners are skipping the local demand challenges and reaching beyond borders to find rescue dogs. Ellen Byron of Champaign adopted Jackson, a Saluki-Shepard mix, from Traveling Tails Dog Rescue in Qatar: “We had a very loving dog who got cancer. She died in March right after the shutdown. A friend suggested we check out this rescue organization as he had adopted a dog last year.”

For some people who have been thinking about adopting a dog for some time, the pandemic has been just the push. Leslie Kimble of Champaign, whose family is currently screening rescue dogs for adoption, says “It is purely something the kids wanted long before the pandemic but now that we are all home more, it is more appealing.”

Similarly, Carissa Swiatek of Champaign says, “Our dog died seven years ago and we knew when our children were small we were too busy to get a new pet, but we always planned to get another dog at some point. Since COVID allows us both to work from home sometimes, we felt we’d have more time to spend with and train a pup. We knew shelters were largely empty and when my initial local search yielded no results, we chose to use a breeder. We thought a lab would be a great sibling for our children. However, we’ve been on a waitlist since June.”

How about you, dear reader?  Have you adopted a pandemic buddy?  What was your process like?

Top Photo by Nicole Brooke.

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