Your dog is not ready for you to return to the office

Look at that face, those pleading eyes, that nose that has kept you company throughout the pandemic. Now explain to Cooper why it’s so important that you get back to the office — leaving her alone all day, after two years of being together 24/7.

Because what? Company of mind?

Todd McCormick, a derivatives trader on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, decided he wasn’t going to. “I don’t think I will ever go back to an office,” he said. As he spoke, his 13-year-old rescue mix Higgins demanded a cracker.

Many New Yorkers, of course, have long since returned to their workplaces, or have never stopped going there. But for those contemplating the transition now, and for their dogs, a day of reckoning has arrived.

According to the ASPCA, more than 23 million American households added a cat or dog during the pandemic, and many of those pets never knew what it’s like to be left alone all day. They photographed Zoom meetings, typed encrypted messages on their humans’ laptops, and found other ways to contribute to the interspecies work environment. For many people, dogs were the only warm body around – therapist, companion and entertainment system rolled into one.

Now their employers want them to give it up.

Big chance, Mr. McCormick said, without even pretending to delay Higgins’ gratification.

“If I go to take out the recycling or the trash, or if I go to get my mail, he’ll howl like a monkey from Costa Rica, and it looks like there’s a murder going on in my house,” he said. said, describing behavior that has only arisen since the start of the pandemic. “He knows I’m going to be gone for three minutes, but that doesn’t stop me from being able to hear him all the way in the elevator.”

Mr McCormick has mostly stopped going to restaurants and has not gone on holiday since the pandemic began, largely to avoid being separated from his dog.

“But I have to tell you, through it all, what an incredible companion,” he said.

Dogs in city apartments have always had to adapt to less than ideal conditions, but returning to work has meant that suddenly thousands of people are going through the same transition at the same time, said Kate Senisi, director of the training at the School for Dogs in Manhattan’s East Village. “We had a lot of separation cases coming up,” she said.

Dogs that were used to being left alone before the pandemic tend to adapt quite quickly, she said. “But for pandemic puppies” – dogs born and adopted during the pandemic – “they weren’t left behind at all, and now they’re at a sensitive age, adolescence,” she said. “It can be quite difficult. They need to be taught these new skills.

Trainer Pro Tip: Don’t give this special toy to your dog only when you leave, as the toy will become a distress trigger.

Mary Sheridan, a lawyer who lives in the East Village, hadn’t planned on getting a dog. As a single mother with a small apartment and a full-time job, she felt her situation was not good. But when the pandemic hit and Theo, her 13-year-old son, was separated from all his friends, she realized he needed a companion. “He was really, really emotionally craving another being to love besides me,” she said.

So in the summer of 2020, she put her name on a breeder’s waiting list in Wisconsin, where she had family. Eight months and $2,200 later, she and her son returned home with a goldendoodle puppy they named Nala, for a character in “The Lion King.”

There were challenges. The streets of East Village during the pandemic became off limits at 2 a.m. when the pup needed a walk. At first, Ms Sheridan put Nala in a crate and left the apartment for a while each day to prepare the dog for their impending separation.

“As the pandemic progressed, I lost that,” she said. “We all sort of dropped the ball on everything.”

Then last month, Ms Sheridan had to return to work. “It totally took me back to having a baby, when you went back to work, and the panic that you feel – Oh, my God, I have this baby and I leave it there all day. What kind of world do we live in?

So far, both dog and owner seem to be managing the transition, she said. When Mrs. Sheridan is away, she plays public radio for Nala, who also seems to find olfactory comfort in her son’s trainers and socks.

Ms Sheridan’s separation anxiety has eased, she said. “But I still feel responsible, and I think it would be a lot nicer to have a dog where you are around them.”

Pam Reid, vice chair of the ASPCA’s behavioral science team, notes that dogs who are suddenly left alone may feel “confused, lonely, and wondering why everyone is rushing out the door instead of spending time at home.” She suggests short training breaks before the big return to work and planning walks and meals to accommodate the future work schedule.

“Be sure to watch for signs of anxiety when preparing to leave, such as nervous stimulation and gasping, vocalizing or trying to leave with you,” she said.

Such signs are all too familiar to Millet Israel, a psychotherapist who lives in Chelsea. Since the pandemic, these distressing behaviors have become part of the daily routine with Milton and Rufus, both Poodle and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mixes, known to their devotees as Cavapoos.

If Ms Israel and her husband leave the apartment at the same time, the dogs make their disapproval known, she said. “By that I mean an overturned trash can, an overturned bowl of food, maybe they won’t have used the towels we leave at home if they need to use the toilet, we’ll say. “

As a therapist, Ms. Israel views separation anxiety as a “two-way street.” Did she feed her dogs’ anxiety? Or more tellingly, was she projecting her own anxiety onto the animals?

His solution: eliminate separation. Now she takes them to her office, where they are sometimes part of her therapy sessions, which are usually virtual.

“In many ways, I indulge in it,” she admitted. “I wouldn’t tell a parent who is struggling with their child’s separation anxiety to do that.”

Many tech companies, including Amazon, Google, Squarespace and Etsy, welcomed dogs into some of their workplaces even before the pandemic, and some other companies have since made exceptions to attract and keep workers, Andy Challenger said. , Senior Vice President. to the investment firm Challenger, Gray and Noël. Dogs often face a trial period and sometimes have to stay on a leash. A bite typically leads to expulsion; for less serious offences, there is more latitude.

But Mr Challenger thought the trend might be short-lived.

In the meantime, the real separation anxiety may reside with the owners, not the pets. Raf Astor, who rides and walks dogs in the East Village, said the dogs he sees have adapted very well to the change. But for people, he says, “many of these dogs have become emotional support animals. So now when they have to leave their dog, a lot of the anxiety comes from the owner, not the dog. This pandemic has given anyone who had a bit of a neurosis a license to really indulge their neurosis. And the dogs, one way or another, were freed from it.

As for the owners, they may be out of luck. For all the new dogs in the home, Karen Burke, human resources adviser at the Society of Human Resource Management, said she hasn’t seen a move towards allowing dogs into the workplace except on occasional days. with your pet.

“Is it spreading? I haven’t seen it,” she said. “Should we do it? Probably, especially with the Great Resignation underway. But don’t hold your breath, she said. “Not all work cultures can handle this.”

Now, who’s going to tell Cooper?

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