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Pandemic puppies become part of the family

Five-year-old Manu Etedgee, Sarah Failla’s son, plays outside with the family’s new dog Muktar during the pandemic.
Five-year-old Manu Etedgee, Sarah Failla’s son, plays outside with the family’s new dog Muktar during the pandemic.Sarah Failla

Newton resident Bill Jarry knew he wanted to add a dog to his family of four, but between working downtown, picking kids up from school, and cooking, it seemed he never had the time. Then the coronavirus hit and time seemed to stop instantly.

While his wife worked on the frontlines of the pandemic at Massachusetts General Hospital, Jarry was at home with his daughters.

“We think it will be a good distraction,” Jarry said. “We will be able to take advantage of this time, so that when things do get better, by then the dog is trained — we’re good to go.”

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About a month into quarantine, Jarry said he woke up with the urgent feeling that they needed to get a dog — a first for their family. Within a day, Jarry had researched the best dog breeder for the dog of their dreams -- a Shih Tzu.

On June 11, the Jarry family picked up the newest addition to their family — 8 week old Charlie.

The Jarry family has joined many Newton residents who added a furry friend to their families while at home. Some people are calling them “pandemic puppies.”

According to a PetPoint Industry Data report May 29, there was a national 8 percent increase in pet fosters since the start of lockdown, compared to the same time last year. As for adoptions, it is harder to see the effect of pandemic given many shelters paused adoption during the lockdown.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston opened June 2 after suspending adoptions for over two months due to coronavirus concerns. After only two days, there were no dogs left for adoption.

“People were really rushing to get that companion animal,” said Mike Defina from the Animal Rescue League of Boston. “Because I think everyone knew what was coming — everybody was thinking that they would be at home, stay indoors.”

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Animal shelters in the region and across the nation have been barren due to the high demand of dogs during quarantine. But while the empty shelters may seem like a positive, some dog trainers and owners said they are concerned the pups will be returned as the state begins to reopen and residents have less time to care for them.

“I do worry it’s like the puppy only for Christmas situation,” said Emma Seabrook, who recently bought her second dog during the pandemic. “It’s fine now when people are home, but when reality hits and people have to go back to work — I imagine there will be a massive influx of dogs going back to shelters.”

Emma Seabrook’s new dog Ralph adjusts to his new home in Newton.
Emma Seabrook’s new dog Ralph adjusts to his new home in Newton. Emma Seabrook

Krisla Strand, who also recently adopted her second dog, said she worries that later this year the “shelters will see dogs people can’t afford.”

Defina of the Animal Rescue League said he remains positive about the increase in fosters and adoptions. He assured that once an animal is placed in a home, the shelter does everything possible to help that new owner keep that pet.

Many Newton residents interviewed said they took the reopened future into account. Strand, a preschool teacher, said she has been able to bring her first dog to class at the dog-friendly school and hopes to do the same with her new dog in the fall.

“I am going to be home for the summer, so I can put time and effort into training her,” Strand said. “And then we’ll see if she is going to be a school dog or a home dog.”

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Corbin Kohn, the owner of “Newton Dog Walking,” said he is scared the pandemic is preventing these puppies from socializing properly.

“They are just as social as we are,” Kohn said. “It’s just like kids, there is a window for socializing with children they need to be able to develop.”

Kohn said for puppies this window is often 0-16 weeks, which may be the age group many people are getting puppies during the pandemic.

Dog owners and trainers also fear dogs bought or adopted during the pandemic are not socializing with other humans as much as they should.

“We’re not having any guests in the house,” said Sarah Failla, who recently adopted a previously stray dog from Russia. “What will it look like when people come over?”

Janie Hagopian, owner and dog trainer at Newton’s “Perfect Paws,” was one of many interviewed who said she is also concerned these puppies will not be used to being left alone after being quarantined with their owners for months. She said she fears these puppies will develop separation anxiety from their owners, resulting in behavioral changes and excessive barking.

“I can count the hours she has been alone on one hand,” said Katie Slocum, who bought an 8-week old Cocker Spaniel during the pandemic. She said her dog now throws a temper tantrum when she leaves the house.

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Despite these concerns, Slocum and Failla both said they are confident in their pandemic puppies. They said their new dogs helped relieve stress and stay focused during a challenging and uncertain time.

Failla said having a dog has created a more healthy home environment.

“At a time when people are feeling so emotional and there’s a lot of fear and stress, just to rise to the occasion of being that calm and assertive person,” Failla said.

“When you have a lot of time, you have a lot of time to dwell,” Slocum said. “With a puppy, you don’t have time to shower, let alone dwell.”

Mia McCarthy can be reached at newtonreport@globe.com.