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Four-legged assist, Hendricks County groups find pet homes, provide food in COVID-19 pandemic

Four-legged assist

Hendricks County groups find pet homes, provide food in COVID-19 pandemic

By Stephanie Dolan

Through the COVID-19 pandemic and more people staying at home for more hours than usual, four-legged friends coming home have been a ball of happiness and comfort among the pandemic news. Pet adoptions across the country have increased to the point that many shelters have been completely cleaned out. For the first time since opening their doors, some shelters are virtually emptied of animals seeking their forever homes.

Tricia Pierce, Hendricks County Humane Society operations manager, prepares pet food pickup in Danville. The Humane Society started porch pick up to help pet owners during COVID-19 restrictions. This practice might continue when restrictions are lifted. The food is donated by residents or were damaged bags from stores that couldn’t sell them. (Photos by Eric Pritchett)

“Pet owners understand that our pets provide unconditional love and comfort, and in this most stressful time we are encouraged that many shelters and rescues locally and across the country are experiencing increases in adoptions and foster homes while seeing a reduction in surrenders,” said Colleen Clark, Hendricks County Humane Society’s board president. “We hope that in our new normal, families will continue spending quality time with their pets.”

In Hendricks County, that sentiment seems to be a common thread running through the households of many would-be pet parents.

But new pet owners should remember a new pet brings much responsibility. 

“We have experienced an extreme uptick in more inquiries in our animals,” said Cherie Fox, co-owner of Avon-based Misty Eyes Animal Shelter. “We haven’t necessarily completed more adoptions, but we’ve experienced more inquiries and applications that are almost overwhelming.”

With people at home feeling like there’s a lot of time on their hands right now, they may be making a little bit of a spur of the moment decision on bringing a pet into their home, Fox said whose organization fosters its dogs and cats.

“We’re doing a lot more counseling with them to make sure they’re ready for the challenges of bringing a new pet home,” she said. “But if restrictions were to lift and they go back to work, then they have to figure out what to do with that new family member.”

Right now, seasoned pets as well as pets who have been recently adopted have become used to their owners being home much more than usual.  Pets who suddenly find themselves alone at home again when that time comes will have a significant transition, Fox said.

“There is a double edge sword in all of this,” Fox said. “This could increase separation anxiety once owners go back to work and are gone for hours a day. I would suggest a routine as close to your normal routine as before. If you’re working remotely, once you shut yourself down into your office time, don’t interact with your pets as much as you would on a Saturday. They need to maintain a routine and some normalcy.”

Pets thrive on routine.

“Changing up things on them, that can be extremely stressful for pets,” she said. “Try and keep that routine going as best as you can.”

Even if owners stay at home with their pets for a while, start training for separation. 

“It’s important to start now,” said Tricia Pierce, Hendricks County Humane Society operations manager. “Make sure that your pet is left alone in their crate or a secure room for short periods of time, say 15-20 minutes, and work to increase that time to several hours.”

Pierce also suggested encouraging independent play for minor separation anxiety.

“Use a puzzle toy or Kong in another room,” she said. “Don’t make a big deal out of arrivals or departures.”

For bigger anxiety reactions such as urinating or defecating in the wrong place, digging, scratching or destroying things or scratching at the door, contact a veterinarian.  

“They may be able to help with drug therapy while your pet adjusts to their new normal of you going to work daily,” Pierce said.

While Misty Eyes has seen an increase in adoption applications, the humane society has seen an increased need for pet food and medical assistance.

“We have seen an uptick in the needs as a result of some people being impacted by the pandemic,” Pierce said. “Fortunately, because of the community’s generosity, we are able to help.”

The humane society is currently closed due to current restrictions, but they are still operating their pet food pantry by taking requests by phone or via their website. Organizers in Danville set out food labeled with names Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with a phone call to let the pet owner know they can pick up that day.

Donations of dry pet food, that is the greatest need, can be left on our front porch on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays, or can be purchased from our Amazon Smile wish list for shipping directly to us,” Pierce said. “As always the public has been generous in donating to keep our pet food pantry stocked, and we are grateful to have received a grant from the All In-Hendricks County Rapid Response Fund to help pet owners impacted by COVID-19.”

While the need at the humane society’s pet food pantry has increased, Fox said she has been relieved to see that there has not been a significant uptick in the number of surrendered animals to shelters.

“I think that having an animal to take care of adds a sense of responsibility and commitment to someone’s life,” she said. “It can be beneficial to have that animal that needs you. My mother is in her mid-70s, and she is isolated at home and has been for weeks. She chose to foster a kitty for us. It has made an incredible difference in her not feeling alone. Before the cat came to her, I heard a lot about her feeling alone. Now, there’s not as much of that because she has that kitty to take care of. It helps people to get up off their couch and take care of your pet, take a walk, feel less alone and less locked down.”

The Cravotta family from Plainfield recently adopted two pups after putting down their former pet in November. 

“Toby and Leo have been a great fit for our family,” said Karen Cravotta. “We knew we wanted to wait until after spring break in March, but we didn’t get to take the trip we’d planned. We started casually looking. We have a cat and a toddler, and it can be difficult to find a dog that fits into that.”

Misty Eyes acted carefully about the animals that they adopted out to the Cravotta family and also knowing that Toby and Leo were attached to each other.

Toby and Leo, border collies adopted through Misty Eyes, now live happily at their new forever home in Plainfield with the Cravotta family. (Photo provided by Karen Cravotta)

“Two dogs wasn’t something we’d originally considered, but they’re just so great,” she said. “It’s been awesome having two.”

Being home so much, there are fewer things to do to entertain the family, and the dogs brought excitement to their house, Cravotta said.

“We go out to play with them and have gone out for walks, and the dogs have learned new things and become a part of our pack,” she said.

Misty Eyes was wonderful for the family during the adoption process, making them feel comfortable the entire way.

“We met outdoors at their facility, so we could all keep our distance and meet the dogs,” she said. “We didn’t feel comfortable adopting dogs when we didn’t see how they interacted with our kids. They made us feel comfortable bringing our kids out.”

Even when they went to pick up Toby and Leo, Misty Eyes went above and beyond to keep up precautions.

“My husband is a speech therapist at Hendricks Regional Health, so he’s seen everything firsthand, and we’re taking it seriously,” she said.


Pet adoption, food pantry options

For more information about pet adoptions or pet food pantry options, check out these Hendricks County resources.

Hendricks County Humane Society http://hendrickshumane.org

Misty Eyes Animal Center http://mistyeyes.org

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