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Back to office | Your dog is not ready



(New York) Look at that face, those pleading eyes, that nose that has kept you company through the pandemic. Now explain to Cooper why it’s so, so important that you return to the office, leaving her alone all day, after two years of being around the clock.

Because what ? Spirit company?

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

Of course, many New Yorkers have long since returned to their workplaces, if not never stopped going. But for those who are contemplating this transition today, and for their dogs, a decisive day has arrived.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, more than 23 million American households adopted a cat or dog during the pandemic, and many of those animals never knew what it was like to being left alone all day. They photographed the meetings Zoom, typed cryptic messages on their masters’ laptops, and found other ways to contribute to the shared work environment. For many people, dogs were the only other living thing around, acting as therapist, companion and entertainment system.

Today, their employers want them to give it up.

Bad luck, says Mr. McCormick, who doesn’t even pretend to delay the gratification of Higgins’ cookie.


Todd McCormick and his dog, Higgins

If I take out the trash or the recycling or get my mail, he howls like a Costa Rican monkey, and it looks like there’s a murder in my house.

Todd McCormick on his dog Higgins

It describes behavior that has only emerged since the start of the pandemic. “He knows I’m just going to be gone for three minutes, but that doesn’t stop me from hearing him all the way down in the elevator. »

Mr McCormick has all but stopped frequenting restaurants and has not gone on vacation since the pandemic began, largely to avoid parting with his dog.

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

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

Dogs that were used to being left alone before the pandemic tend to adapt quite quickly, she says. “But when it comes to 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,” a- she said. “It can be quite difficult. They need to be taught these new skills. »

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

Pam Reid, vice president of the ASPCA’s behavioral science team, notes that dogs who suddenly find themselves without their handler may feel “confused, lonely, and wondering why everyone is rushing out the door instead of to spend time at home”. She suggests short training breaks before the big return to work, and scheduling walks and meals around the future work schedule.

“Make sure you are on the lookout for signs of anxiety as you prepare to leave, such as nervous footsteps and gasps, vocalizations or attempts to leave with you,” she added.

Such signs are all too familiar to Millet Israeli, a psychotherapist who lives in Chelsea. Since the pandemic, these distressing behaviors have been part of the daily routine for Milton and Rufus, two mixes of poodle and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who their devotees call cavapoos.


Millet Israeli and his two dogs, Milton and Rufus

If Mme Israeli and her husband leave the apartment at the same time, the dogs make their disapproval known, she says. “By that I mean an overturned trash can, an overturned bowl, maybe they won’t have used the pads we leave at home if they need to go to the toilet, for example. »

As a therapist, Israeli views separation anxiety as a “two-way street.” Was she feeding her dogs’ anxiety? Or more precisely, 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 let myself go,” she admits. 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 other companies have since made exceptions to attract and retain employees, Andy said. Challenger, senior vice president of investment firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. Dogs are often put on a trial period and sometimes have to stay on a leash. A bite usually results in expulsion; for minor offences, the leeway is greater.

But Challenger thinks that trend may be short-lived.

In the meantime, the real separation anxiety may be due to the owners, not the animals. Raf Astor, who keeps and walks dogs in the East Village, says the dogs he sees have adapted very well to the change. But for people, he says, “a lot of these dogs have become emotional support animals. Now, when they have to leave their dog behind, much of the anxiety comes from the owner, not the dog. This pandemic has given anyone with a bit of neurosis a license to indulge their neurosis. And the dogs, in a way, were freed from that.”

This article was originally published in The New York Times.

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