Lily Sebastian almost got a turtle. A few weeks after the coronavirus cut her sophomore year short, she needed some kind of interaction, and a turtle seemed like an ideal friend. However, after some research, she deemed the turtle boring, and ducks became her new pet of choice.
“I wanted to find something interesting to do with my time. Having another animal companion is something new,” she said. Lily chose a breed of duck that won’t quack loudly or fly. They have not arrived yet, though.
Isolation and boredom are the new norm with quarantine, and many families are turning to new pets as a source of companionship and entertainment.
English teacher Maria Thibodeau was reluctant about getting a dog, but decided there’s no better time than now, while she’s home to train one. Her new puppy Minnow has one brown eye and one blue eye. “A puppy is like having a newborn baby; they pee whenever they want. They don’t really have control, necessarily,” she said. “It’s challenging to have a puppy and a young child, because you have to train both of them together.”
Junior Aiden Marek also got a puppy. He named him McLovin, after a character in the movie “Superbad,” and is teaching him to swim. For Aiden and his family, getting a puppy has been a long process. They applied in October, and were lucky with timing.
“It definitely helped being home,” he said. “We don’t have to leave him alone all day, and he has someone to play with whenever he wants.”
But having a pet means responsibility, and some dog rescue organizations worry about what will happen when new owners go back to work or school, post-coronavirus.
Senior Maddy Tully’s mom, Leslie Hurd, runs Angels Helping Animals Worldwide, which collaborates with shelters to advertise and find owners for dogs. Usually, they rescue most of their dogs from tropic islands like St. Thomas, St. Croix, and Bermuda, but have had to expand due to recent demand.
“Right now my mom is working with a lot more people than usual, because there’s been such a big demand for dogs during quarantine,” Maddy said. “It’s a pretty small rescue business, but she’s on the phone all day now. People call probably at least once every half an hour asking about a dog.”
Her mom does a background check to make sure that dogs are going to good households and that the owners do not have occupations that could make dog-owning difficult when they return to work.
The hardest thing for a rescue organization during the pandemic is the transport of dogs. People are less willing to drive dogs across state lines and fly them back on planes because of the risk of exposing themselves to coronavirus.
“The quarantine for the dogs is more restrictive now, but this whole time it’s been deemed a necessary service, so they are still able to do it pretty seamlessly,” Maddy said.
Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School graduate Mackenzie Condon understands the need to ensure a safe home for animals. When she returned home from college, she purchased two bunnies, Winnie and Oslo, to keep things interesting while she and her sister were home.
“It was definitely an impulsive buy, but we weren’t uneducated about what we were doing,” she said. “It’s important to know the responsibilities of an animal when you get them.”
Some of her friends also have new bunnies, and they plan to have a big bunny gathering when they can get together again.
As for Lily Sebastian, a duck gathering remains a thing of the future. She continues to wait for her ducks to arrive.
And, incidentally: She hasn’t told her parents yet.