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(Wo)man’s best friend

Jody Vance: Reports from the US and elsewhere about pandemic pooch adoptions being rejected and returned strikes a nerve. If you’re feeling the strain, there are ways to help – and honour the commitment you made.

This week’s Middle has gone to the dogs.

If you follow my social media, you have likely noticed dog photos far outnumber selfies by about a 100:1 ratio. You may have also observed that my most used hashtag is #dogbutts.

Guilty as charged: I’m a card-carrying member of the Crazy Dog Lady (CDL) Society.

Champion of the vulnerable, adopter, and perpetual dog sitter.

As such, like millions of others, I viscerally feel any mistreatment of dogs.

As a CDL, it’s distressing to see headlines across North America about a spike in shelters filling up with dogs hastily purchased or adopted during COVID-19. People who decided they simply had to have a pandemic puppy now don’t have the patience to commit to caring for and training their pet. For them, an inconvenience; for millions of innocent dogs abandoned, a horror.

This dumping of dogs makes my stomach turn. Mostly the stories are out of the US, and thankfully that is not the case here in BC. The BCSPCA is not seeing an increase in surrenders at their shelters thanks, in no small part, to stringent adoption protocols and processes.

You cannot adopt from BCSPCA on a whim. One must prove preparedness and knowledge in what becoming a pet owner truly involves.

My most recent adoption, Scout, was with Thank Dog I Am Out. Scout has been easy as pie to add to our household, but that wasn’t necessarily the case with our first Yorkie, Baxter. Mostly due to his breed, he came with a couple behavioural challenges when we were lucky enough to get him from Little Paws Rescue.

Baxter taught me a lot about leaping, learning, and loving my dog that isn’t Instagramable perfection.

The Baxter story started in 2011, in my first few weeks on the job at Breakfast Television. The Little Paws Rescue Halloween Doggy Fashion Show with my now good friend Mary-Jo Dionne was to be a fun TV segment, with a mission to find forever homes for the pups on display.

Baxter was dressed as a beer can, and clearly not pleased about it. I’ve revisited the video of this little nugget looking up at me, and deciding I would be his person. Mary-Jo actually stopped and said: “I think you are having a moment.”

She was right; we were. Long story short, he ended up at home with me. We instantly loved him.

Yup, a beer can.

Rarely is life without its potholes. Baxter was a bit of a Yorkie stress ball. He’d been raised by a loving family, who then had a baby who was allergic. He felt abandoned and scared. He’d growl at my son when he walked into the room –protective of me. Out and about, he was oddly aggressive toward big black dogs. He did NOT like bouncing basketballs balls, skateboards, or people who drag their feet when they walk or run.

Did I mention that he loved me and I him? We were committed to put in the work, and what a gift he became.

As luck would have it, my role as host on BT offered me the opportunity to take Baxter for a walk with Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer. (If you ever want to feel like a rock star, take that dude down to the Kits Point Off-Leash dog park.)

Cesar reiterated the foundation of well-behaved dogs: exercise.

Dog butts. That's the caption.

A tired dog is a happy dog. Angsty dogs are frustrated by pent-up energy. That chewing, scratching, or barking are all signals of that angst. Want those to stop? Tire them out, every day. If your pet is destructive, you are likely not meeting its fitness needs.

Most breeds do best with consistent and sustained exercise to start their day, rain or shine.

In an effort to help anyone who might be struggling with canine care now that we’re all spending less time at home, I spoke with Lorie Chortyk, Communications Manager for the BC SPCA,.

First, if training and separation anxiety are an issue, there are ways to fix that without giving up your fur baby. “Give your dog routine, they thrive on it,” says Lorie.

She also gives great tips to help you help your pandemic puppy get used to the new normal that comes with back to work:

“Start leaving your dog at home for short periods of time, even if you go stand outside your front door for five minutes and return - it is teaching them that it’s ok and you will be back.”

There are all sorts of tips on the BCSPCA website as well.

More dog butts. That's the caption.

My Baxter passed away at 10 years old in 2016. Our current Yorkie pup Calvin shows similar quirks as his predecessor. Breed matters, and getting breed-specific advice is important too. Speak with your Vet for the best advice on ensuring an anxiety-free transition.

For our Calvin, it’s crate training. His comfy crate sits in our living room, often a place where he finds a random treat of bone. He loves it. When startled or stressed, he will go lay in his “box”.

Lorie really hit home with advice on routine – specifically one that includes lots of exercise. It might just be the magic key to serenity with your adoptee. Be that dog parent who consistently hits the trail or the park at the same time each day — you will find that all the happiest dogs are there, day in and day out. You will also find us Crazy Dog Ladies and Gents there, too.

From dirty paw prints all over the car and the house, to the muck that comes with the off leash walks, from the all-too-frequent barfs to the never-ending duty to scoop poop — we signed up for all of it. Don’t give up on them.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.


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