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Among the unfortunate side effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been the rise in loneliness across generations, as millions of us have been forced to isolate at home.
But increasing numbers of Brits are turning to pets to help them cope with being away from their friends and loved ones.
Rosie Cope, from Hertfordshire, is one such person. The 29-year-old works in PR and, like many of us, has had to adjust to working from home.
"I had a few things to keep me entertained for a few weeks but found myself feeling quite low and uninspired in general," she told Tyla. "[For those of us] without a garden, and living in a small flat, it was hard."
Before the pandemic, Rosie and her partner had spoken about getting a dog, and having more time at home meant they could finally make it possible. "Dogs are so loveable and compassionate, it's hard not to love them," she says.
"We weren't ever in the position to have one as we both worked in office. Thankfully we now have the flexibility to work from home and have been able to."
Rosie and her partner collected Gus, a Corgi, at the end of July. "For the entire drive there I remember panicking about the idea that I was bringing home an innocent small pup and would be responsible for him for his entire life," she says. "I'd done all of my research, bought everything I needed, but this sudden realisation was really intense."
Gus became the perfect companion during lockdown 2.0. "Outside of work, he's a reason to get out of bed each day even if that's just to take him out for a walk," Rosie explains. "He's the sweetest, happiest puppy and if I'm ever feeling down, I know he's there to perk me up."
Pets at Home's CEO Peter Pritchard said during an interview with the BBC's Today programme that the pet care market has been "incredibly strong" throughout lockdown, with animals playing an "incredibly important role" through a period of "social loneliness".
Insurance company Towergate also noted a rise in people looking for pet insurance in since February. After surveying 1,000 of their customers, 76 per cent agreed that their pets helped with their mental health.
Thanks to Gus, Rosie has even met a host of new people virtually and through socially distanced walks. "I've made friends with corgi owners and they're there if ever I need any advice, am having a down day or just fancy going for a (socially distanced) walk," she says. "We've also connected with the owners of Gus's littermates - there's a lovely WhatsApp group of us sharing stories about our pups growing!"
Gus now has a growing Instagram following, with almost 5,000 followers. "Gus is what I'd describe as a derpy dog - very silly but also very funny. He's super friendly and such a happy pup."
Anna Williams, 31, from London and her husband Dom grew up with dogs and added a cute Shiba Inu puppy to their family. In many ways, lockdown has made owning a dog a possibility for the couple. Like Rosie, getting a dog was a very big and well considered decision and she did a lot of research into what breed what suit her lifestyle the best.
"We live in a flat with a garden in Richmond, so we couldn't get a dog that was too big. We're both quite active and knew we wanted a breed that is independent but will also have a great time on a yomp around Richmond Park," says Anna.
After chatting to Shiba Inu owners and doing lots of research, Anna and her husband found a Kennel Club Assured Breeder in February and were put on a waiting list and eventually bought Watson home at the beginning of June.
"We've focused a lot of time and energy on Watson which has been a welcome distraction with what's been going on with the pandemic. Dog walks and our training routine has been and still is, during the colder months, great motivation to get out of bed and enjoy exercise."
Having a puppy during these uncertain times has been challenging according to Anna, especially when most puppy training sessions were unable to run and they had to adjust their plans to socialise Watson in his first few weeks at home with Anna and her husband.
She said: "The summer, when restrictions were more relaxed, was great for him, so we tried to do as much training and socialisation then.
There were also challenges during lockdown 2.0, however Anna and Dom have made sure to safely socialise Watson as much as they can. By doing so, they have met other Shiba Inu dog owners and Watson has become a very important part of the family.
"We're both now at a point in our lives where most of our friends are settling down, and getting a puppy was our version," Anna says. "Watson is a great companion to me and Dom, and it makes us feel like we're a proper little family."
Bill Lambert, dog owner and spokesperson for the Kennel Club, explained that the reason why dogs helped Rosie, Anna and so many others during lockdown is because they provide "unconditional love, loyalty and companionship without any judgement."
He said: "Being a dog owner supports self-care - taking a dog out for a walk encourages social interaction and provides motivation to get outdoors and be active. As we continue to face a global pandemic and the psychological stresses that brings with it, this unique support that dogs provide to their owners is now more important than ever. In a world full of chaos, man's best friend is certainly living up to its name."
Bill emphasises that getting a dog is a very big decision and must not be an impulsive decision. Similarly Rosie and Anna did a lot of research before getting a dog. He said: You need to make sure you can properly care for a dog for its life, including when we go back to 'normal'."
Featured Image Credit: Rosie Cope
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