By Caroline King
After losing his dog, Cooper, to liver failure a few years ago, Justin Gordon wasn’t sure if he would ever be ready to adopt again.
But as long days in quarantine filled with Zoom meetings, online classes and depressing coronavirus updates dragged on, Gordon and his family decided it was time to visit Bless Their Hearts rescue in Allentown, Pa. and add a new addition to their household.
“We thought we could never have a dog as good as (Cooper) was and never be that lucky again,” said Gordon. “But the moment we picked Tucker up and had him in our arms in the pouring rain on that Saturday, we could tell he was going to complete our family.”
As people search for comfort, companionship and a sense of purpose during the COVID-19 pandemic, local shelters experience a surge of adoptions, making it clear that for many, the best therapy comes in the form of a furry friend.
“The impression we have gotten from our adopters is that this is a good time since people are home and bored,” said Mark Phillips, the director of animal services at EASEL, the Animal Rescue League and Pet Adoptions located just down the street from the College in Ewing, NJ.
Phillips noticed this influx in interest when the shelter received 50 requests to adopt in one day.
For those not ready to dive into adoption, fostering animals is another option, especially for dogs and cats who could use “trial runs” given past behavior that needs to be corrected. Archie, a “small dog with training issues” being fostered from EASEL, received dozens of applications for adoption during the first weeks of quarantine, according to Phillips.
Archie, a Jack Russel Terrier mix, is described by Phillips as being “very friendly, but mouthy.” For dogs like Archie, being trained by families in quarantine is an ideal setup, allowing for increased one-on-one time to help rescued dogs adapt to new surroundings.
Lexi Lombardi, a freshman early childhood education and psychology double major, is also keeping busy with a new dog in the house. Lombardi’s family adopted Maggie, a pit bull mix, after she and her puppy siblings were dumped in a front yard right after being born.
“Since quarantine started, my family was really adamant about doing something to give back during this crazy time,” Lombardi said. “It’s definitely brought our family even closer, because we are so focused on her instead of letting our minds focus on school work and the pandemic.”
Time in the Lombardi household is now spent going for walks with Maggie and “taking a break from the corona talk.”
Shelters across the country are running on an adjusted schedule to comply with state and federal guidelines. Instead of keeping its doors open for the general public, EASEL is operating with scheduled appointments. The shelter has asked those interested to fill out an adoption application, and has remained open with “a limited number of people working in shifts,” according to Phillips.
According to Phillips, the best thing that the public can do for shelters like EASEL is fill out adoption applications. But even if families are not in a position to adopt, the staff at EASEL is grateful for all of those who have dropped off donations, fostered and funded medical cases.
He encourages those interested in helping the shelter to visit EASEL’s website.
“Instead of just having bland days full of Zoom and hearing COVID-19 news, our days are now intermittently filled with his love and attention and being able to take him for long walks, train, and play with him as a family,” Gordon said.