Watch CBS News

Home Alone: Helping Pandemic Pets Cope When Their Owners Return To Work

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- According to a recent survey by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, during the pandemic, 1 in 5 American households added a new cat or dog to their families.

During the lockdown, our pets provided a lot of comfort and joy during the stressful time. But now experts and households alike wonder how our furry friends will fare as world slowly reopens.

Many are like Rob Woodcock and Sarah Sharifi. They adopted Heinz when he was just a pup.

"Neither one of us were leaving the house at all for work. So we had the time," remarked Rob.

Now it's time to sit back and analyze the situation. The goal: to strategize how to help Heinz and other pandemic pets cope as their owners head off for holiday reunions or begin to venture back into the office in the New Year.

"He's very well trained here but he's definitely susceptible to distractions," noted Rob.

Before you get up and leave Fido or Fluffy and think it will be easy going, chew on this. Boarding kennels, doggie daycare centers, pet sitters and dog walkers are back in business and in high demand.

"300 new dogs this year alone. Since May, it's really grown," said Victoria Robinson.

Robinson is the owner of the High Tail Dog Hotel in San Francisco. The High Tail offers both daycare and overnight boarding services.

Since the introduction of COVID vaccines, and the easing of restrictions, the High Tail has seen a dramatic jump in new clients.

KPIX 5 checked the situation out with some random surveys of Bay Area facilities, and we found doggie daycares are once again very much in vogue. That means if you are looking to head out of town for the holidays or line up daycare for the top of the New Year, heads up.

"If you haven't already booked with a local pet sitter or boarding facility, you're probably out of luck," said Robinson.

Dog walkers and pet sitters are also getting harder to find.

"The pet care industry is suffering some of the same pressures many other industries are facing with labor shortages," noted SF SPCA director Dr. Jennifer Scarlett.

Dr. Scarlett said she counsels pet owners to line up help in advance. But equally critical, she urged, pet parents need to make sure their pets are prepared

"It's about routine and it's about positive rewards you want to get your dog used to meeting new people, meeting other dogs and then they'll be more comfortable at the boarding facility," said Dr. Scarlett.

She recommended that owners immediately begin to build new routines with their pets.

If you're expected to be at work at 9 and you're leaving at 7, start going out at 7, and start leaving your dog for a few minutes go around the corner and get some coffee and back," offered Dr. Scarlett.

As for Heinz, Rob and Sarah are motivated to help him cope with their periodic absences. This summer, they plan on going on a 2-week honeymoon and want him to be ready. But Heinz is not the only one suffering from a little "separation anxiety."

"We feel so bad leaving him, you know, We'll leave and he'll stand at the window and he'll put his paws up on the window and he'll watch us leave and it breaks your heart," said Sarah.

The couple is planning on their strategy for the New Year and it will be a hybrid model: combining some days working from home, using dog walkers, and at times daycare.

Another tip: make sure your dog is up on their vaccinations. The canine flu is spreading very quickly in Southern California, and experts told KPIX 5 that it's only a matter of time before it reaches the Bay Area.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.