- Although many have been contemplating getting a pet for a while, quarantine turned out to be a good time to make the decision with everyone at home and more time on hand.
Columbus, Ohio-based siblings, Avighna Reddy, 12, and Akhila Reddy, 8, always wanted a puppy. But their parents’ work, social commitments, their school and extra curricular activities came in the way. So, when the lockdown and shelter-in-place orders began in March, the two thought of broaching the subject with their parents once again. But this time, they did thorough research, and put everything in a powerpoint presentation. It included the cost of having a pet, the division of chores, and responsibilities.
It was just the push the family needed. “There was a talk of getting a dog for a while, but we were too scared to pull the trigger,” father, Chaitanya Reddy, an engineer, says. He and his wife, Katyayani Mahadevan, a scientist, grew up with dogs, so it was a unanimous decision to get Bruno, a Labradoodle.
In Landenberg, Pennsylvania, 16-year-old Lara Rao, also made a presentation to her parents. She and her older sister, Reema, 19, wanted to have a pet dog. Both mom and dad eventually relented, and on April 21 they got home Rocky, their silver brown lab. “We needed a dog who is friendly and can be trained,” says mom, Roshni Rao, a banker.
The Reddys and Raos are among many Indian American families who got a pet during the lockdown.
Was it a well-thought over decision or was it one of those spur of the moment buys?
Many families this writer spoke to agree that although there were talks of getting a pet dog, the lockdown period seemed ideal, since everyone was home and had more time on hand.
In the case of the Natu family of Hillsborough, New Jersey, it was an impulsive buy. “[Our daughter] Abha had been asking for one since a few years, but we kept saying no,” mom Ashlesha Natu, a technical analyst, says. That said, the actual decision to get home the pet was quite impulsive, “in less than a week’s time,” she adds. “We never really thought about what kind of dog we wanted because it was very sudden. But once we saw his picture, it was a unanimous decision.”
It was a similar situation at the Reddy home, despite the ongoing talks. “[Bruno] was definitely a corona puppy,” Chaitanya says.
For some, the road to get a pet at home was smoother than the others. Some needed little convincing, while there were those who had to be coerced into it. “I’ve always wanted a Rottweiler growing up, mainly because they’re such intelligent, loyal and playful dogs,” says Shruti Chakke, 24, a consulting analyst. “However, it’s very difficult to convince an Indian dad with stray dog trauma to bring one home as a family member.”
But in the end it all worked out, and now the Iselin, New Jersey-based Chakkes have Mia as part of their family. “We’re definitely a dog family finally, including dad,” Shruti says. “It wasn’t unanimous, but nevertheless a decision we’re all super happy about.”
In Robbinsville, New Jersey, the Corera family was faced with a similar situation. Natalie Corera, 12, is an avid pet lover and has been asking for a pet dog for a couple years now. She even made a powerpoint presentation to convince her family, but her older sister, Cordelia Corera, 17, wouldn’t be bothered. But the day Milano, a Lagotto Romangnolo, walked in, “everything changed,” says their mother, Harriet Edwards. “She contributes to the chores and pampers him so much now.”
Although everyone featured in this story has purchased a new pet, the New York Times reported that adoption and foster rates are up all over the country during lockdown and shelter-at-home orders. “The ASPCA has seen a nearly 70 percent increase in animals going into foster care through the organization’s New York City and Los Angeles foster programs, compared with the same period in 2019,” the report observed.
Best Friends Animal Society has also seen a surge in the number of fosters and adoptions nationwide, “because sheltering in place has allowed people the time to tend to a new cat or dog.”
There are several reasons people keep pets. They are comforting companions. They help keep us healthy and relieve stress. They play and show us love.
A study conducted by wonderopolis.com, an informational site that asks and answers interesting questions, revealed that there are more families with dogs than cats, but the total number of pet cats outnumbers dogs.
However, having a pet is not all belly rubs and wagging tails. Pets are a big responsibility; they need to be walked, fed, groomed, given medical care and exercise. More often than not, a decision to get a pet home is driven by the kids, but the chores are mostly left for the parents — moms, in particular.
To avoid that, Chaitanya has a fallback. The powerpoint presentation his kids made, to which he can hold them accountable. But that said, he concedes that right now, “everyone does an equal amount, whoever has the time at that moment does it [chores].”
At the Rao home in Pennsylvania, the chores are divided. “Everybody takes turns,” says Roshni. While getting up early and taking Rocky for a walk is her job, the girls take care of him during the daytime.
At the Corera home, Milano, “is completely a family dog,” so all chores have been split as evenly as possible, Harriet says.
More often than not, a decision to get a pet home is driven by the kids, but the chores are mostly left for the parents — moms, in particular.
As the families are adjusting to the new addition, they admit that although it’s a lot of work, the joy is priceless. “Just remember that a puppy is a long term commitment,” Harriet warns. “Although it’s a lot of work it is 100 percent worth it.” Rahul Chakke agrees with Harriet. “Be ready to be patient with the puppy as it is very much like a baby with very similar needs,” he says.
What makes the process of having a pet memorable are the day-to-day incidents and anecdotes. Roshni recalls an incident when Rocky ran away with her husband Lokesh’s slippers and slipped under the dining table. When she saw him chewing away on them, she reprimanded him and warned him that he had taken “daddy’s” slippers, and when daddy finds out, he will yell at Rocky. Maybe he understood her, or her body language, but Roshni says, Rocky fled from under the table right away with the slippers, and put them at the right spot, only to come back with her slippers. Just like kids, he got an inkling of which one of his parents is the stricter one.
It goes without saying that for these families, getting a pet was one of the bright spots at a time that could otherwise seem dull and monotonous. As Shruti sums it up: “Getting a dog, especially a high energy, large and intelligent one, is not a walk in the park. It’s a lot of work, sleepless nights and commitment. However, when taken up at the right time, it’s definitely a great addition to your family.”