In early 2021, my family became one of the 3.2 million households that received pets during the blockade. The new member of the small family composed of my husband and me is Bertie, a black cat taken from the streets by one of London’s many rescue agencies.
During the severe blockade, pets became the lifeline of many people, including myself. As a key worker, my husband spends most of his working hours in his office every week, while I work from home, which means that I am completely alone for a long time.
Pet companionship has become increasingly attractive as millions of people say they feel lonely “always or often” during the blockade. According to a study by the University of York, more than 90% of participants said their pets helped them deal with the blockade emotionally. Keeping pets is also associated with better health, with 96% saying their pets help them stay active.
The soaring demand for animal companionship has led to the price of puppies more than doubling during the blockade, with the average price of dogs rising from £ 888 to nearly £ 1900. The price of popular varieties has increased even more, and the price of hybrid varieties such as cockapoos and cavapoos is more than 1000 pounds higher than usual. Due to the “unprecedented” surge in pet ownership, supermarkets are also forced to warn of a “national shortage” of some cat and dog food.
Although animal shelters have warned that the number of abandoned or abandoned animals will increase as restrictions are relaxed across England, the idea is unthinkable for most people who welcome furry friends into their homes because of the blockade.
We talked to many people about how their pets changed their lives during lockdown and how they were ready to adapt to leaving new family members behind for months when they returned to the office after nearly 18.
Angelica Malin, 30, owner of cavapoochon, Alfie
“I really don’t want to go anywhere without Alfie.”
Angelica Malin, 30, and her cavapoochon Alfie (Angelica Malin)
I went through the first blockade myself, and I found it very difficult because I lived alone for the first time since I broke up. With so much time alone and so little interpersonal communication, I am an extrovert, so I really struggle with my time.
I’ve been thinking about having a dog, so covid became the motivation to do so. This is the motivation that I need to seriously start studying it. This process was very fast. I found a breeder of my favorite cavapoochons (a hybrid of three breeds: Knight King Charles hound, poodle and beagle) in Wales and was put on the waiting list.
Soon after he had a litter, we held a FaceTime meeting where I could see the dog. Alfie was the only one who fell asleep. I chose him. At that time, the blockade meant I couldn’t go to Wales to pick him up, so I paid him to bring him to me.
I found him in October, and then in January I contracted covid and had to isolate myself. It was a big challenge. I frantically searched Google for “how to exhaust the dog indoors”. We played a lot of tennis in it. I spent a lot of time on YouTube looking for skills to teach him.
Alfie is in the minority. He’s really sticky and wants to be with me all the time – I don’t have privacy anymore! It’s great to have a dog. Not only is his company great, but I’ve never heard so many people say I have a dog. There is such a community. I went for a walk with my friends. They said they had never seen me stop to talk to so many people. I really like this aspect of being a dog owner.
Alfie sits at the table (Angelica Marin)
Since things opened up, it must have become more challenging. If I want to travel without him, I must be very organized. I must organize dog day care or ask my friends for help to sit on the dog. But I’m not too worried because London is full of pet friendly places, and I really don’t want to go anywhere without Alfie. I even went to the Hart Hotel in sholditch, where there is a dog room service menu!
I’m self-employed, so it’s easy for me to work from home, but sometimes I like to share office space. Last time I took Alfie, he jumped up and ate someone else’s Nando lunch… So he was a little embarrassed. I think I’ll try again until he gets used to it. It’s the only feasible way.
Although he is very sticky, I love him more than anything. Alfie’s company is very valuable. He makes my life better.
Ben and Lou Austin, 40 and 39, owners of dachshund, Frankie and Labrador dog Ralph
“He brought new energy and sparks to our family”
Ben Austin, 40, with Ralph and Frankie (Ben Austin)
When the blockade was implemented in March 2020, the digital marketing business I operated with Lou was completely out of sight. Suddenly, we didn’t travel at all. Lou began to struggle with anxiety and depression. Because he sat indoors all day and didn’t release after work every day, we only talked about business. We can’t go out and divert our attention from things. It becomes very difficult to deal with the blockade.
We decided to have a dog. In October 2020, Frankie, our dachshund, appeared and brought new energy and sparks to our family. This is a person who can hug, take care of, take care of and play. Frankie’s business went so well that on New Year’s Eve, we had another dog: a silver labrador, which we named Ralph. Both of them have completely changed our lives.
At first, it was a big shock. Soon, we changed from no dog to two dogs, but we love them. Before they came, Lou developed social anxiety, even to the point that she didn’t want to leave home, so she asked the dog to help her go out for a walk with them. So far, she has controlled her anxiety so that she can attend a real customer meeting today.
When we lived in the countryside of Essex, we had our own one acre private forest, and dogs absolutely liked it. Frankie likes to chase and hide and seek, so the woods are his territory, but Ralph absolutely likes to swim when we can go to the beach. He put his head under the water and tried to eat the bubbles. It was really interesting.
Frankie the Dachshund (left) and Ralph the silver labrador (Ben Austin)
Naturally, when you have a dog, your life will change. Before the pandemic, we were really free, so now we have more plans, but we won’t have any other way. Just the other day, we were talking about driving to the beach, just the two of us, but the more we talked, the more we realized that we didn’t actually want to leave the dog at home. We are considering more about what we can do, including dogs.
Our business is now completely remote and there is no plan to return to the office. In fact, it has been very effective for us since we opened the office. We voted on employees in August to ask them whether they want to stay telecommuting forever, develop a hybrid model, or return to the office full-time, but everyone wants to continue working remotely. Some people have their own pets, so it has really changed for them.
Holly winter, 42, owner of the hamster, coda
“He came into my life at the right time”
Holly winter, 42, and her hamster coda (Holly winter)
A year ago yesterday, my father died unexpectedly. He had gone to a routine morning run and sat in his study when he got home. My mother found him 40 minutes later. He’s dead. She tried to call me several times that morning, but I missed her call. When I saw how many missed calls, I thought it was strange and prepared for some bad news. When I finally got through to my mother, I asked her if everything was all right? She said something that had bothered me since then: “no, it’s really bad, honey. Dad died this morning.”
Shock is absolutely terrible. No one can see it coming. Before I called her, I just thought I should sit down. Dad might be in the hospital. I just didn’t think he was really dead.
Just before this happened, I adopted coda, a rescue hamster, during the blockade. His former owner had to give him up because they moved and couldn’t take him in, and he had always lived in a cage that was too small for him, so he really needed a new home.
Hamster Koda (Holly winter)
We needed to go to Sheffield with mom, so I quickly packed up everything, including coda and his hamster house. I am a bridal designer and tailor. At the beginning of the blockade, my whole peak season was cancelled. So I think I will propose to make wedding dresses for those brides who work in the front line of the NHS. These brides have to postpone their wedding because of novel coronavirus. When dad died, I was halfway through the process of making these clothes, so we crowded into coda’s hamster room in the trunk of the car, next to some wedding dresses I hadn’t sewn together and my sewing machine.
Being with Koda in all the chaos is such a welcome respite at the end of the day. There are some lovely, fluffy things that are happy to see me, which have nothing to do with all the sadness and give me the spiritual breathing I need from everything. He was separated from sadness, and it didn’t affect him. Focusing on coda is the foundation. You must pay close attention to him because he was very fast and he would attract all my attention. It’s great to be occupied by such a lovely and small thing.
The life span of hamsters is only about two years, and coda will be two next month. He is old now, looks a little bald, and one eye has become a little cloudy. The hardest part about liking hamsters is that when you have a hamster, you know you will have to face the pain of losing them in two years. I’ve had several over the years and I really like them. Coda is really special to me. He was there at a very difficult time in my life. I intended to be the one who saved him, but I didn’t realize how much I needed him. He came into my life at the right time.
Deborah Tan, 29, is the owner of mice, blossom, bubbles and buttercup
“When taking care of my pets, they also help me take care of myself.”
Deborah Tan and one of her three mice, blossom, bubbles and buttercup (Deborah tan)
Blossom, bubbles and buttercup are my three mice. They are all sisters. I got them in June. They were very good for my mental health. My mental health was hit by stress and homesickness. I haven’t been able to visit my family in Malaysia for more than a year.
I don’t think it’s a good idea for them to spend time outside the cage and supervise their pets, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for them to spend time with them in the cage. I don’t think it’s a good idea for them to spend time outside the cage. They can only live for two years, so this is not a 10-year commitment or something similar. I am satisfied with this.
I really need emotional support, too. When you feel stressed and tired after work, the last thing you want to do is take care of yourself – but when it comes to taking care of my pets, they also help me take care of myself. They divert my attention from my work and you have to be with them, because if you let your thoughts wander, one of them disappears, that’s it! They’re gone and may disappear forever! So they brought me to the present.
Blossom, bubbles and buttercup mouse sisters (Deborah tan)
When you are an animal without pets, you will feel as if something is missing. In the blockade before I got the mouse, I felt I had nothing to take care of. When you have a pet, the situation is very different. If you can’t, neither can they.
These three mice have very different personalities. It’s great to watch and understand them. Blossom likes to be a little rough. She likes to play. Buttercup likes to eat and is the fattest, while bubbles is very quiet and likes to be alone. She’s the most anxious, but it’s best to take it out and put it on your leg, because she’ll snuggle up when she’s comfortable.
If I move elsewhere in the next few years, I’ll take them with me, of course I will. I know their lifespan is short, but I think that’s the beauty of pets – they are sad when they have to leave, but they will teach you to enjoy the present and enjoy them when they are around.
Sam sellers and Libby Barrett, 31 and 32, owners of the Finnish Labrador
“We all chose Finn with Ecstasy”
Sam sellers and Libby Barrett, 31 and 32, with their Australian Labrador Finnish dog (SAM sellers)
We have been thinking about keeping dogs for some time. Once we find our favorite breeder, the waiting list is one year to 18 months. Last March, when we put our name on the waiting list, we thought the blockade would end when he arrived. Well, none of this worked.
Before we got Finn, we did try to prepare for what we expected. Each of us read a different book and went to take care of a friend’s dog for a week. But when he arrived, we realized we had no idea what we were doing
Raising a puppy in an apartment is undoubtedly incredible pressure. At that time, we lived on the fifth floor of a street area and were very sensitive to the noise of our neighbors downstairs. The pressure in the past few months was much greater than we hoped, but we got through the difficulties together!
Sam sellers, Australian Labrador
Finn is an Australian Labrador. He is now four and a half months old. In fact, having Finn means we can go out more. It’s really great to go out for a walk. Every day, the dog is energetic, so when he is at a medium level or calm, he is very cute and we hug him on the sofa.
Finn is a lovely thing. He is an interesting distractor. We all work from home. It’s great to take care of Finn. I don’t know what else to do. Looking ahead, we will have both office and home time, so we will be able to balance a week, which is perfect.
He is a very cold dog. We are lucky that he has a calm temperament. We can choose two puppies from the garbage. They are at both ends of the spectrum. We all chose Finn with ecstasy.