Guest Post from Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life
Just a month ago, millions of pets each day had to watch as their owners walked out the door to work. Dogs did so with anxiety, cats did so with relief, and fish did so with nonchalance (and tiger cubs did so because Joe Exotic sold them to anyone who would pay cash).
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our lives have changed drastically, and one major change has been our relations with our pets. As in, they actually see us now! Pet adoption rates have shot through the roof since the lockdown began. More good news is that our pets can act as handy sources of help at this time; even if they cannot speak (unless you own a parrot), they can often lead by example. What can we learn from our pets during this weird time?
Without rush hour traffic to get through each day, and without the boss coming over to tell you to go to lunch, a regular meal schedule can be one of the first victims of the shelter-at-home quarantine. Yet there’s probably not been much change to your pet’s meal schedule: You probably still pour out kibble at the same time in the morning, noon, or night, because they start whining or meowing if you don’t.
Meal schedules do a lot to maintain focus and discipline — but when there’s no need to be at place X by time Y, our own meals have taken on whatever schedule we want. Oftentimes that means a lot of snacking, perhaps a lot of drinking, and not much healthy food. Follow the example of your pets to make sure you know what you’ll eat (healthy, please!) and when you’ll eat, so that you’re spending more time eating well and less time opening the fridge door to see what’s left inside.
Wolf packs for millennia have gotten up at first light each day to start their daily walkabout, which is why your pooch starts barking at you as soon as the sun goes up. It’d be nice if they could learn to sleep in, just like it’d be nice if they learned to clean up after themselves — and it’d be nice if the pandemic ended with everyone winning the lottery! Until that blissful day, however, dog owners need to get themselves up and out for at least one daily walk.
Walking isn’t just beneficial for your dog, however. There are countless examples of evidence out there about the dangers of sedentary life, specifically the dangers of living on your couch. Exercise is an imperative ingredient for health and well-being. Regular outdoor time also refreshes your concentration, boosts your mood, and gets that all-important Vitamin D flowing to help keep you sane.
Tongues and Baths
Another day, another hairball. Such is a great joy of cat ownership, along with needing to rent a dumpster to hold all the furniture that they’ve scratched to pieces. Cats don’t just hock up hairballs for their own amusement, however: they do it to keep clean, since a dirty cat is a slow cat, and slow cats don’t catch many mice.
We don’t recommend tongue bathing (although we don’t necessarily disapprove of it, either), but there’s no question that hygiene can take a hit when we have no reason to go outside. Nobody can smell you from a Zoom meeting, after all. It’s important that you don’t think of hygiene as a chore, however, for several reasons: First and foremost, hygiene goes hand-in-hand with consistency, and few things are better for productivity than consistency. Additionally, the ties between mental and physical hygiene are stronger than you might think.
Old Dogs, Young Dogs
One of the most fun parts of dog ownership is being able to teach your dog a trick. Some tricks are practical, some are just silly, and some are a key to building a lasting bond with your pooch. Also, what’s true for dogs is often true for humans, and the quarantine is an excellent opportunity to learn new skills.
There’s lots of advice to do something you’ve always loved, but what about something that’s always just sounded interesting to do? Something like learning Italian, driving a stick shift, building a henhouse, or doing Tae Bo? If you can get your dog to learn alongside you, all the better — although we don’t recommend giving them the wheel.
Catnip, rawhides, and crickets (for the discerning iguana) are all examples of treats that your pet wants more than a pat on the head. Humans, too, want treats, from Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to iPhones, and our treats can be as big a motivator in our lives as our pet’s treats are in theirs.
The quarantine is an excellent opportunity to figure out what things really make you happy, even if that happiness lasts the span of ten seconds. Not only can you develop more productivity by assigning rewards to completed tasks, but you also can start personalizing your treats and giving them away so that other people associate your name with happiness and cool gear.
The Big Picture
Everyone is struggling to get through the quarantine. Pets can help, and so can the examples of how they live their lives. Think about how to get your pet to behave, and don’t be afraid to turn it on yourself. What’s more, think about how you can better enjoy the time you have with a pet — and if you don’t have a pet, consider one that might brighten up your day, even if it’s just a betta fish in a bowl.
At a time when nobody’s feeling certain about life, jobs, relationships, or money, it’s worth remembering that your pets don’t spend a second of their lives mulling over such things, and they’re all the happier for it.