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Challenge: Pandemic Parenting

Fighting the COVID 15? Get a Dog!

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“Let’s walk, Mom. Mom, let’s walk. Mom, Mom.”

Dolly, our bluetick coonhound puppy, is yelping at me over and over and over, in a persistent canine cadence, refusing to be ignored.

“But, Dolly, it’s Mother’s Day. I have a headache. I’m tired.”

“Walk, Mom. Walk, Mom.” We started this weeks ago when she arrived. She doesn’t know the difference in one day or another or if I have a headache or any other excuse. “Walk, walk, Mom.” Every morning, I take her on a morning walk. Afternoons are my husband’s domain and we both take turns between. This is not what I remember from when our beagle puppy arrived 16 years ago. Oh, yeah, I was younger then and, WAIT, I remember now, our two daughters were in the house to help dull the brunt of the puppy years, all those sharp little razor teeth reminding us to “Walk me, walk me, walk me, walk me.”

After 14 years of beagle love, our family dog died of old age and I was ready for a break. Then, COVID-19 hit and we hunkered down inside and we sat, and we sat, and we sat, no dog to keep us moving, no barking, yelping, sad pleading eyes.

“Let’s see who’s delivering tonight!” Pizza, steaks, tacos, you name it. When the pandemic first hit and the world locked down, seeing a new entry in our delivery apps was the excitement of our day. Local restaurants realized the necessity of fulfilling online orders for their survival and the options grew.

As the menu items grew, so did our waistlines, both my husband and I at home and our girls stuck in their apartments in Texas and California.

“Oh, you didn’t.” I cried in delight when I opened the door and magically, an ice cold Dairy Queen shake sat there innocently, the masked delivery person long gone. My husband had indulged and ordered us the night’s treat. No need to go anywhere, just enjoy.

All of this indulgence with very little exercise resulted in weight gain, aching joints, “Tech Neck” from sitting on the couch looking down at our computers and “Corona Butt” tailbone pain, again from sitting in the same spot for hours upon hours working during the day to watching TV at night.

Rather than taking this opportunity to learning new cooking habits or use the treadmill in the basement, we decided to move South, nearer to my childhood roots. Southern BBQ, biscuits & gravy, cast iron cornbread, banana pudding at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen. So many delicious things to sample in our new home state of Tennessee. As restaurants allowed in-door dining, we dined along with everyone else.

After searching through real estate listings for several months, we found a home on a beautiful 40 acres and I couldn’t imagine not sharing it with a farm dog.

“He’s soooo cute!” We were in Tractor Supply and saw a family with a new puppy, a bluetick coonhound, same breed as the official Tennessee state dog, mascot of University of Tennessee, the state of our new home. That’s the one. We got the name of the breeder and waited and waited until new puppies were born and brought home our very own.

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What an adjustment. No more sleeping in. We forgot about the puppy stage. Her energy level needs SOMEONE to get out and walk with her several times throughout the day. “Walk, walk, Mom, Dad. Walk, walk.”

So, my advice to you, if you are having trouble scheduling in daily exercise, get a dog but not just any dog. Here are a few tips to getting the right dog for you. Don’t worry, they will all get you out walking more, which hopefully leads to healthier eating too.

KNOW YOUR ENERGY LEVEL

Know yourself. Can you handle the puppy stage? This age includes several years of total adorableness but also biting to see what they should or shouldn’t bite, chewing on everything, and housebreaking if they are going to be inside dogs. Personal trainers have the bark; puppies have the bark AND bite to get you moving, all for the sport of it.

If you want to skip the puppy phase, local shelters often have wonderful young to older rescue dogs who are often housebroken and need a loving home. If available, check the online description to get to know a dog before adopting. From the descriptions I have read, some describe dogs that play well with others and list whether they will be better in a one-dog home or can fit in easily with other animals.

DO YOU HAVE THE PATIENCE FOR TRAINING?

Some dogs train better than others. Some dogs run off or break through electric fences more than others. Our little coonhound seems to stay close to home when we go out walking, often beating us back to the house. Our beagle would catch a scent and off she would go if we didn’t have her on a leash, often getting into things she shouldn’t. Regardless, she made a great family dog in size and temperament.

KNOW YOUR BUDGET & ALLERGY TOLERANCE

Certain breeds, like labradoodles, can be somewhat expensive for the average budget, but they bring with them features like hair instead of fur which some pet owners need to be able to own a dog without their furry friend initiating serious allergic reactions. Other high-cost breeds come with specific useful features including guarding livestock like goats and chickens.

The important thing to remember is that all dogs need patience and love and training but they are a bundle of furry love and seriously do help you get off your duff and moving on a regular basis. I know because as I write this, my little puppy is yelping, “Walk me, mom, walk me!”

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