((L) Charley Benner (R) Blu Benner | Photos Courtesy of Tralain Benner)
There is no question that pets have helped us get through the past 15 months. With a dog, cat or other non-human friend in the house, we are never alone. We have a presence in the home who is always loving and happy to see us, accommodates our moods and rarely talks back when we are grouchy. Our pets can be our protectors, our companions, our confidants and our best friends.
But the relationships between animals and their owners is complex. While cuddling with a furry friend can certainly help reduce stress, concerns about the future and the ability to care for our human and animal family members can actually add an element of worry to our lives. When we feel fearful or anxious, our pets pick up on that, and can feel anxiety and stress themselves.
“Our dogs provided a sense of normalcy for us. In a crazy world, we had them to care for us and us for them,” says Drew Turner, co-founder and creative director of Last Call Trivia, a home-based business that creates trivia nights and events for bars and other establishments. “They’ve been our only family this whole time because our families live back East, and with travel bans and such, we haven’t seen them since October 2019.”
Turner’s wife, Torri, who operates a vacation rental as well as a pet-sitting business, says she and Drew have gotten even closer to their dogs throughout the pandemic. “I am much more protective than usual. It has made it really hard to leave them even for a few hours,” says Torri. The Turners have two black English labs, Poe, 7, and Dash, 3. “I don’t think our routine really changed much since we both work from home, but when things shut down, it affected both of our businesses tremendously. Poe and Dash were raw fed, and when Drew’s company shut down, we had to make financial decisions like changing them to a high-quality kibble because it is much less expensive than raw feeding.” She adds, “We spent a lot of time on our front porch pondering the future, and we think they both are Intuitive and could feel our fears and anxieties. Dogs are more than a pet or just an animal; they feel very deeply.”
Torri says she believes that dogs are smarter than humans, and that she is amazed by their intuition and instincts. “I was suffering from debilitating nocturnal panic attacks through the eye of the lockdown storm, and Poe would just hold me or pace the house with me. Or, he would put himself to bed in our room if our energy was becoming too much for him. They really are our partners in life.”
Tralain Benner, owner of Mama T’s, an e-commerce and wholesale product line of Pet Therapy CBD Oil, says that her pets have helped keep her accountable over the past 15 months. Benner has a 6-year-old black Lab named Blu who was given to her family when he was 5 months old, and a 9-year-old Tabby and white cat named Charley who she took in when he was surrendered to her vet clinic as a tiny little kitten after being found in a slipper on someone’s front porch. “One of my greatest challenges has been keeping busy and staying positive. Depression really lingers when you are quarantined. Not being able to visit family was also difficult. My parents are getting older and have more medical concerns, so I worry more about them,” she says. “There were days I didn’t want to get out of bed, but because of Blu and Charley, I did. Every day they needed my attention, my love and my care. I couldn’t let them down.” Benner says that in being home all day every day, her pets want more attention. “The dog wants to go out more and the cat thinks he needs to eat more food,” she says with a laugh. “I definitely play fetch with Blu more often, and Charley really likes me to open his bay window and sit there with him as he chatters at the birds and chipmunks.”
Benner says that her business, which she founded in 2018 and runs from home, has slowed a little bit, but that the company is still plugging along. “My veterinarian has been referring her clients to me when they are interested in CBD for their pets, which has been very helpful.”
As the pandemic eases and life gets back to some semblance of normalcy, pet owners are figuring out next steps, in their own lives and in the lives of their four-legged family members. “We have uncertainty over our future, whether we are staying in Oregon or not,” says Torri. “We have 2.5 acres of land for our dogs, and leaving that would be tragic. But the ‘boys’ have not been around other people or other dogs, and that hurts their personalities. I think Poe tolerates less, and maybe that’s because he’s 7 now, but he used to be so gentle. Now, he seems more annoyed when other dogs come around.” Torri says she is hoping that in resuming her dog-sitting business, the interaction with other dogs will help Poe lighten up. “Dash, our youngest, already had separation anxiety because of his elbow dysplasia, so it has gotten a little worse,” she says. “Dash is kind of a COVID dog. He is turning 3 this month. We moved to a remote location in October 2019, and then COVID hit and we all locked down, so he was socially affected the most.” She continues, “We used to leave daily for the gym at the very least, but we haven’t been back since March 2020. We are starting up our social lives again now, and leaving them at home to help them readjust.”