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Will my dog have a post-lockdown breakdown?

Blog | By Susan Hamlyn | May 05, 2020

Credit: leisergu

I’m worried about my dog’s mental health.

She is behaving very oddly. When she moved in, just over two years ago, she was nervy, frequently refusing to eat, had constant digestive upsets, chewed books carelessly left around and was short-tempered with other dogs when on the lead. She was inconsolable if I left the house – this I know from my neighbours who, thoughtfully, tell me how much she howls when I go out.

It’s not surprising, given her history. We met when I visited The Dogs’ Trust in hopes of finding a new canine companion. When I arrived, she had, only minutes before, been put in a pen where visitors could admire her. She had, apparently, been with them several weeks but had not emerged from her cubicle even for food for several days after being rescued, having been so traumatised by her previous owners. I was told it had been a case of “domestic abuse” and know no more.

However, since she came to live with me she has settled, learned to play with other dogs and is no longer terrified of strangers. But the slightest upset has always sparked the manic chewing of books or shoes and put her off her food – until now.

Since lockdown – and I am one of those who now only leaves the house for dog walking purposes – she is eager for every meal, eats it all at once and the previous digestive problems that beset us have vanished. She loves the dogs we meet on our walks. My books and shoes are safe.

Other dog and cat owners tell me similar stories. This is the Golden Age for household pets. They are never alone. “My cats used to ignore me – I thought they didn’t care,” a friend told me, “but now, if I sit down, there’s a cat on my lap at once.” My dog – who used to follow me anxiously around the house - now lies on the sofa, the bed – mine or hers – and doesn’t seem to care where in the house I am. She knows I’m somewhere around and that’s what matters.

So – I am worried about her mental health. When lockdown eases and I might venture to the shops, to see a friend or even, for longer, to a concert or play, will she revert to tummy upsets and the destruction of books? Will she – in effect – be miserable? Will the preservation of her mental health mean the obliteration of mine? Does this mean that I can never leave the house again?