The pandemic as the most challenging time that Pooja Advani, the founder of Doggiie Dog World (DDW), a luxury pet wellness centre in Mumbai, has had to wade through professionally. With misinformation about animals being carriers of the virus, more animals were being abandoned than ever before. "I would get over 50 calls every day, and would have to counsel panic-stricken people who weren't sure about what to do," she recalls.
It wasn't just abandoned animals that needed help, “there were pet parents who were affected by the virus, had to be hospitalised, and didn't know what to do with their pets,” she says. “We also had pets in our boarding whose pet parents were stuck in different cities, and some in different countries… Being able to board their pets with us, the pet parents were able to focus on their health without worrying about their furry babies.” Operating from a three-story bungalow, DDW is spread across 2,500 square feet and also feeds "a bunch of what we call "visiting strays" around us," she says.
Advani, a certified groomer, canine behaviourist, trainer, hydrotherapist for small animals, and an animal communicator, talks about how important it is for pet parents to help their pets transition gradually, now that things are slowly getting back to normal.
There was a surge of pet adoptions during the pandemic, but these "pandemic pets" are used to having their parents around all day and are at high risk of experiencing severe separation anxiety when they have to go back to work.
"Start slow," advises Advani. Start by staying away from your pet for five minutes, once they get used to it, gradually increase the time interval. "Normalcy also means that noise levels will increase, as will the traffic on the streets, which can scare pets who aren't used to this," she adds.
In such situations, she suggests taking baby steps with a pet. Linger at the main door for a few minutes, a couple of times a day. Once your pet is comfortable with that, you can walk with them for a couple of metres, and keep increasing the duration of the walk as and when you see the pet feeling comfortable.
“The key is to not force your pet to do something they're not comfortable with. It is a lot of work, but that's a responsibility you take on when adopting a pet,” Advani notes. "The one thing that I tell people looking to adopt is 'Go ahead if you're ready to be a toddler's parent for close to 15 years.'"
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