Support Dogs of The Pandemic
Covid Canine Companions, we salute you
Of the many groups that have not had their due over the course of the last year, there is one creature that is especially overlooked, primarily because they can’t speak.
As we’ve all been sheltering in place, adoption rates of dogs went up by 9% during the pandemic in the US, and applications to Battersea Dog’s Home for dogs went up 53% just in April-June of 2020.
This has led to renewed appreciation for all the special services that dogs provide: they’re company in isolation, far cheaper by the hour than therapists, surrogate siblings for bored children whose parents have run out of Netflix and Disney shows to amuse them with, and can be relied upon to keep the house clean even when you have lost the will to pick up the food your infant daughter is slinging on the floor.
They are also apparently highly-effective Covid detectors — which means that man’s best friend can be trained to succeed at a task that took billions of public and private sector ingenuity to get right.
Having already nailed many of the key functions necessary to sustain human life, they’re also now graduated to seeking out wildlife harmed by wind farms.
Dogs are often culturally portrayed as an expensive extravagance, ludicrous fur babies for coddled permachildren who refuse to grow up, but when weighed in a cost-benefit analysis against this laundry list of services they seem like a pretty rational purchase.
(Some time ago the cats vs dogs debate was settled for me by the simple fact that no cat has ever saved a human life — there is no such thing as a rescue cat, a guard cat, nor a guide cat — but their inability to detect a lethal virus by smell alone is the final nail in the coffin).
For many who work in the media and communications industries, it’s been clear that we’re far less essential than nurses and doctors and Amazon and Ocado delivery drivers - but are any of us ready for the emotional hammer blow to our remaining self-esteem in accepting that we might even be less essential than that morbidly overweight Beagle last seen eating leftover kebab and fox turd out of the gutter in your local neighbourhood?
So what happens to the dogs when everyone goes back to the office? Is the honeymoon over?
As a race we’re not even able to look after many of the human beings on this earth — as proven by the monstrous levels of racial disparity in the medical and economic effects of Covid, the backsliding on gender equality, the fact that entire countries in the developing world are falling behind whilst richer nations horde the vaccine and get ready for something like normality — and so it seems ludicrous to howl “what about the dogs”?
But they’ve been keeping us company, detecting disease, entertaining our children, and now we’re going back to work and sending them into shelters in their masses.
“All knowledge, the totality of all questions and answers, is contained in the dog” — Franz Kafka
So spare a thought for the hardworking and under-appreciated support dogs of Covid-19: not only are they more essential than you think, they might possibly be more essential than you are.
At the very least, they deserve a scratch on the chin and an extra treat as a reward.