Review: Pet Care in 2020

It took some creativity to care for the pets and backyard birds during the pandemic shutdown. I was going through some photos the other day and it all came flooding back.

How were we going to feed Darwin?

In early March he was just beginning to awaken from the quasi-hibernation he experiences from late fall through the winter months. We use Timothy Hay in his bedding, but he also requires daily access to a reasonably fresh supply for his daily diet.

We aren’t talking small bags you might find at the pet store for a hamster cage. This 14-year old Sulcata is so large we can no longer pick him up to move him. He must be between 50-60 pounds by now, and he grazes on grasses all day long.

For most of last year we couldn’t access his typical supply source, a hay bale purchased at a feed store, and the only reasonable source was to have Timothy Hay shipped through on-line pet product supplier, Chewy. I wonder what the UPS driver thought when he delivered three 50-pound bales of compressed bale horse forage!

Organic pumpkin is an occasional treat.

In the summertime he enjoys sharing our watermelon, often with a side of garden succulents.

But did you know we had another tortoise?

We found Rocky, or he found us, 25 years ago. We found him in the garden and he has spent most of his life in a large glass aquarium. We’ve tried to let him have a little freedom from time to time, but he can escape so fast, and he has. We missed him for a few days until a neighbor found him in her vegetable garden.

His needs are simple, but he does have to eat! And his diet consists primarily of live meal worms. So once again, where do I get the meal worms? Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm to the rescue. We purchased live meal worms and had them delivered through the mail. Rocky was well fed!

The hummingbirds and wild birds were also a responsibility, and presented a few questions. The hummingbirds visit year-round. Especially in the evening it isn’t at all unusual to have twenty or more birds hovering at the multiple feeders. I typically need about three cups of sugar a day.

Did you try to buy sugar in 2020? It was in short supply and I needed quantity. I learned that if I bought 40 pounds at a time, again on-line delivery, I had a steady supply. Any smaller, however, wasn’t available. We also accessed our wild bird food through Chewy and other sources. A few times our home supply dwindled quite low before we found a source with enough to keep our flock happy.

And then there’s our precious Zena.

She has always struggled with separation anxiety, but she had us all! As a multi-generational household with EVERYONE home all day, every day, Zena was unaware of a raging pandemic, and just thrilled to have her humans close.

When this picture was taken most of us had piled into Aimee’s large car as we headed towards the beach. Our intention was to change the scenery and at least smell some salt air and see the ocean. After months of never being out of our sight, I’m not sure if we took Zena with us because we didn’t want to be away from her, or we thought she’d be anxious without us. She’s a good traveler.

But poor little doggy! She developed a severe problem with extremely high pressure in one eye, and we were advised that removing the eye would protect the vision, hopefully, in the other. She did well. You’ll thank me, however, for not including a visual diary of the experience.

The resulting trauma did exacerbate her anxiety, and she’s requiring quite a drug cocktail with her dinner. I didn’t know “doggy dementia” was a real thing, but if you’ve ever had your dog cry and pace ALL NIGHT, you’ll soon learn how sensitive they are.

Some of you must also have animal and pet stories. I’d be interested in hearing how you’ve relied on your pets, and how they’ve relied upon you!

Caring for our beloved friends was a wonderful distraction during heavy times. All they require is love and attention, and although none of our pets are certified therapy pets, as far as I’m concerned they truly are.

“I hope to make people realize how totally helpless animals are, how dependent on us, trusting as a child must that we will be kind and take care of their needs.” James Herriot

48 thoughts on “Review: Pet Care in 2020

  1. I’d not read that quote from Herriot before, and it is EXACTLY how I feel. All animals depend on us; whether it’s to feed them, save them from something or not to kill them: they are so terribly vulnerable. As the story of the lovely Zena shows, Debra: for what would have happened to her without you ?! You’re the only people I’ve ever come across who have a huge tortoise as part of their household – and what a wonderful name for him ! πŸ˜€

    • I knew we were kindred spirits, M-R. I’ve been re-introduced to Herriot this past year with the “All Creatures Great and Small” Masterpiece Theater series. I decided it was time to read his books and I’ve become quite a fan! I do love my animals and I think that caring for them is therapeutic. On the lowest of days we still needed to care for them, and I know that the responsibility generated the necessary energy! Darwin started out in our home as no larger than a coin! LOL! I had NO idea what we were in for. He is a very unique creature. and certainly not for a small space. πŸ™‚

  2. There are five dogs that allow us to live with them. We lost one of them a few minutes which broke me heart. One of our friends parents runs a rehoming group. They happened to have a beautiful cocker so even though we weren’t ready we had a home and she needed one. She’s a blue eyed Merl. We are told that she was a year and a half old. Hahaha. She was 7 or 8 months old at best,

    Anyway, we make our own food ever since the Chinese food scare in about 2010. We didn’t have problems buying it since it is really human food.

    They loved being at home with us all day, every day during the lockdown.

    Somehow your comment to me got lost. I found. I’ll answer it shortly.

    • You must have a very lively home at times, Ray! Your young puppy sounds like a beautiful dog! As Zena is getting older we’ve begun to ask ourselves if we will be ready to take on the responsibility of another dog “when” the time comes. Our Vet bills were so high the last couple of years we’ve questioned our ability to take on another dog, but much like you with friends who re-home, one of our good friends does the same and I have a hard time saying no to a pet needing a new home. I was making “human food” with good ground beef when the pandemic started, but then I couldn’t get the beef. Now that I can, she won’t eat it. Unfortunately she’s all off after her surgery and at this point I practically hand feed her anything she’ll eat.

      I’m very mindful of Hurricane Ida and truly wishing you safety!

  3. You did have pandemic adventures, procuring hay, meal worms and sugar. I had lost a beloved cat in January 2021 to a coyote. I didn’t plan to get another while I was here, but in June two emaciated stray cats showed up in our yard. No chips, collars or tags. They are either litter mates or mother and son, so I have adopted Apache and Lilibet. Apache lives with me in my tiny downstairs room and Lilibet stays in the garage by day and the living room by night when the border collie has gone to bed. I hope to reunite them in a month or so.

  4. I am so sorry you lost your cat to a coyote, Sharyn. That’s tragic, and rather common where I live, too, sadly. But I love the story of your adopted cat family! It sounds like you’ve had to figure out the best way to incorporate them into your family with a border collie likely quite curious! πŸ™‚ It’s funny how sometimes these little creatures find us and although we don’t feel ready, we have an opportunity to address their needs, and true to form, they seem to address ours as well! It’s really nice to hear from you, Sharyn. Thanks for sharing about your animal family!

    • I will admit there are times when I don’t feel all that “perky” about the responsibilities, but they are entirely dependent on me, and that’s the bottom line. They do seem to be grateful–I do tend to think my animals think like people. LOL!

    • As we head into fall, even though we are still having very high summer temperatures, Darwin’s clock tells him to begin slowing down so I feed him a few treats, like the pumpkin, just to let him have a little extra. He’ll likely stop eating entirely some time in October and won’t get active again until early spring. It’s a marvel to watch!

  5. My old cat Jake had some dementia at the end. I would be up all night with him. He would howl and get very agitated. It was as if he didn’t know where he was. It was awful. The last 6 months of his life, I never got a full nights sleep. At the end of their life, pets, like people, cost more. The last two cats that passed ran up large vet bills only to die quickly. Yet I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have two one-eyed cats and both do well. Good luck to Zena!

    • In describing Jake’s nighttime agitation you completely describe what we were experiencing with Zena. At first we thought it was temporary and we took turns staying with her, awake at night, and hoping to comfort her. But even that really didn’t help. As you mention with Jake, It’s very clear she is slowing down and we know to appreciate her every day and treasure this time. 😦

    • I enjoy routine, especially when life is a little chaotic, so even “mucking” a giant tortoise pen is somewhat satisfying. It’s even more satisfying when my husband does all the dirty work. πŸ™‚

  6. Glad that your pets have you! Sorry to hear about Zena’s eye and increased anxiety. Hope the drug cocktail at dinner keeps her at peace.

    BTW: My great aunt LOVED Herriot’s books. I missed the start of the series on Masterpiece but have tuned in for a few delightful scenes.

    • Nancy, if you get a chance to see the recent Masterpiece series DO! It was so good! I am certain there will be a second series, so maybe you can get caught up. And yes, poor little Zena. I crush her pills before adding them to her food and recently I crushed them and didn’t realize that I hadn’t included them in her food. We had a terrible night, proving that she really does need the help. 😦

  7. Oh, the picture of Darwin, having his face full of (Pumpkin?) food is priceless. He enjoyed it and hw shows it.

    I always knew I liked you, now I know why. We are right now owned by two dogs, we lost our 14 year old Weimaraner in January, the same day Larry Kind died.

    We bought dogfood at Chewy in bulk, but couldn’t find the treats for a while. Gratefully, I found a dog biscuit recipe πŸ™‚

    • Ouch! You lost your beloved 14-year old. I’m so sorry! As if times aren’t hard enough. I’m very aware of Zena’s rapid aging, and almost daily witnessing something that shows she’s really slowing down. It’s hard, isn’t it! We purchased so much from Chewy and I have kept it up even though I can find the products again. They were such a lifesaver I can’t pull my support! Fortunately for local vendors and with what we buy in pet products, there is plenty to go around! The pet industry surely didn’t take much of a hit during lockdown, do you think? And yes, it’s pumpkin. πŸ™‚

      • We just got an order of Blue Buffalo, a dog food I always wanted to try. Guess what? Our dogs don’t like it at all, the actually vomited after eating it. So back to ‘Authority senior food” which they love.

        I messaged Chewy, they refunded the money and asked me to donate the food. I messaged the next animal shelter, asked it they would accept an open food bag and they were happy to. We dropped it off yesterday. Chewy was a lifesaver, something I won’t forget either.

        • I have felt very loyal to Chewy, so I’m so glad to know that they refunded your purchase. But my goodness, you poor dogs really didn’t like the Blue Buffalo!

  8. Sadly, Debra, doggie dementia is ever so real. My Minnie suffered with it for a little while before I recognized what was happening. The eye-opener was the day I saw her stand up and head toward the next room, only to stop after just a few steps and look around as if to ask what it was that she had set out to do. I had seen the exact same behavior exhibited by my mother over the last few months of her life. Suddenly, other behaviors I had witnessed all same together. Her vet confirmed it.

    I have to admit I rather envy your multi-generational household. Most of the time, being a loner is fine with me, but the last many months have sometimes been way too quiet. Good to see you posting again, and great to see a happy Darwin.πŸ˜‰

    • So good to have you stop by, Karen. Thank you! Before we finally had the vet’s help in determining what was going on with Zena I was trying to do my own research, connecting her behaviors with the loss of the eye. I found so much material and read many heartbreaking stories. It does seem that age is part of the trouble, but when an animal experiences trauma, like the eye surgery, it kickstarts a decline. She definitely requires a lot of patience these days. I like that you witnessed behaviors in Minnie and understood her responses in recalling your mother. I get teased a little about “humanizing” my pets, but I don’t know how else to meet their needs.

      I have felt very fortunate to have been part of a large family “bubble” in our household during this time. My daughter and her family moved in to share our home when my dad was in his last stages of illness and before he passed in 2016. My mother lives across the street so there are four generations. It’s been a tremendous comfort. I have so many friends who have had to tough out the last year and more very isolated. I am sure it has been difficult, Karen! I do hope life is normalizing for you. Whatever that even means anymore, right? Thank you!

  9. Debra, I’ve always enjoyed your animal posts. I’m so sorry to hear bout the ongoing anxiety with your sweet pooch. What a shame to lose an eye as well. My heart goes out to you. I’m glad you got some beach time. A change of scenery, not to mention fresh salt air, is uplifting. You are a great caretaker of the creatures in your home. We’re still a household with three felines. Our dear Lindy is 19 now and just needed a lion cut to ease the matted fur. It’s hard watching her age. We adore her. Tessa is now four and Mouse, our only male cat, is 10. They bring comfort and humor to our days.

    • So nice to hear from you Alys, and to learn more about your feline family πŸ™‚ One of our cats lived to 23, which was amazing to me. Unfortunately, our canine babies don’t have quite the same life expectancy and as we watch them decline, there’s a natural tendency to begin bracing ourselves. I hope in all other ways you’re doing well, too? I haven’t seen a post in a while, and I hope you are just too busy to post.:-)

      • 23 is a long, long life for a cat. That’s amazing, Debra. I hope our sweet Lindy has a few more good years left. She’s such a gentle soul.

        I’ve been blogging sporadically, but I want to dedicate more time to this space. It’s been so rewarding over the years, meeting interesting people (like you). I’m posting a couple of times a month. It’s nice to see you blogging again, too. xo

  10. Oh, poor Zena. She is lucky to have such a caring family to look after her. We have ordered dog food online for years, so that was no problem for us. And our little Gina was blissfully unaware of the world events of 2020. She died in November though and that was hard on us…. a winter locked in with no doggy companion. 🐾🐾 By spring we had decided we did not want another dog for a while, but then Anouk came along. She had been living in a small port in Greece, begging food and fuss from visitors who have their boats moored there. But in 2020 everything was closed up and her food source thus capped. Luckily my brother-in-law had been keeping an eye on her (he has his boat there) and paid a local vet to feed her. Then he decided this spring he couldn’t leave her there. But she didn’t get on with his own dog so we stepped in. I think there must be millions of animals around the world who have either died or are suffering from neglect due to the lockdowns, so it is heartening to hear stories of happy pets. πŸ’•πŸ˜ƒ

    • Oh my goodness! What a story you have, Cathy! How sad to have lost your little Gina. It’s so hard any time we lost a beloved pet, but in a year when there is so much heartache and stress the loss must have felt compounded. But then to hear of your rescue of Anouk! That’s an incredibly heartwarming story, Cathy, and I’m so glad you shared it. Although it’s not in the theme of your more typical blog posts, I’d love to have you share more with photos. We ALL love an animal rescue story. I’m glad you shared with me. I’m truly touched by a happy story!

  11. Dear Debra, like you, I depended on Chewy during 2020. I’d been ordering from them, however, ever since I had to give up driving. The only thing I didn’t get from the online company was kitty litter. When they deliver that along with food, the boxes are just too heavy and awkward for me to handle. So I got litter–for 3 cats–from the grocery store and during the winter that got really iffy because people began using it instead of salt to help with the packed ice and snow on their driveways and whenever they got stuck and had to back up their vehicles. I had every member of my brother’s family on the look-out for litter! Thanks so much for sharing not just how you managed, but these wonderful photographs. I’m sorry Zena had to have her eye removed, and I’m wondering how quickly she adjusted to seeing with only one eye. That takes some getting used to for a human and I’d think for an animal also. Peace.

    • Dee, It’s a little hard to know how easily Zena adjusted to her eye removal. She didn’t even fight the dreaded cone she had to wear for almost three weeks. It took at least 6 weeks for the eye “area” to heal, but she was calm. But almost as soon as she healed externally she started showing signs of her nighttime dementia. She’s significantly aged this year, and I think the eye removal kick-started that!

      I’m glad you shared with us how difficult it was to obtain litter! For someone like me who lives in a “no snow” climate, I wouldn’t even think of using litter as a salt replacement in snow and ice management. Wow! I am truly interested in how it is that we have ALL managed over the last year, caring for ourselves, and our pet families! It’s really been a challenge, but we’ve managed, and that’s the story. πŸ™‚ Thank you so much for sharing.

  12. What a beautiful post. It’s been a challenging year on so may fronts, but thank you for addressing a topic that really doesn’t get a lot of news coverage. So… you wanted hear about pet stories from the pandemic? Here’s mine. We have a cat, Muffola, and she is a house cat — although she does scratch to either go in the garage or in the backyard. She’ll sleep for hours in the hot garage, but when she’s in the backyard, she sits on the patio — the queen of her domain. Her other routine is to sit in her own chair while we all watch television at night. She’s not a cuddle, unless she demands it — like I said, queen! With the pandemic, and Joe and I being home each day, all day, day after day for over a year now — Muffola’s behavior changed. She became a teenager… whenever we all found ourselves in the same room, she would do all she could to get away from us… garage, backyard, other rooms. We used to joke that she’d rather lock herself in her room than watch television with her parents. I think the queen was sick of us, and if she could, she would have had us hauled off to the dungeon. Once we started venturing out a little bit, she was more willing to join us. Kids these days. πŸ™‚

    • What a funny story, Kevin. First, how did you decide on that fabulous name! Muffola. LOL! Wonderful name! I think you’ve described what is most clear as a difference between our feline and canine friends. We literally, and I do mean this, trip over Zena. After 18 months of us being so close all the time she is even more dependent. I can’t leave a room without her following me! But a cat? You and Joe definitely impinged on Muffola’s independence and she was not going to let you forget that YOU were the inconvenience. This is just too funny! And since I live with two teenaged granddaughters, I can say that I do know the vibe! LOL!

  13. As always, I love your photos, Debra.I have no pets at this point in my life, & therefore no stories of them during lockdown. But this home-bound time has given me a lot of time to observe the wildlife that lives around us: turkey vultures, wild turkeys, falcons, hawks, ground hogs,field mice, deer, jackrabbits, frogs, toads and so many different kinds of birds.You would love it, & you’d know these birds!

    • I think that nature has offered us healing some of the tough and sore spots, Gail, and your beautiful surroundings must have been incredibly rich! I think that observing nature is a gift and I’m so glad you had the opportunity to take advantage. If you can see all of these wonderful creatures from your home, you really don’t need a pet, per se. You have a vantage point I’d really enjoy. πŸ™‚

  14. How I love reading about your pets. What glorious creatures all! We are pet free right now because we’re still mourning the loss of our Henry. And trying to decide if we have the energy and wherewithal to bring another dog in our family. Of course reading about your experiences and pets makes me want one! Our Henry was a golden and had no issues except for seizures if we were gone for more than a few days! One time when we drove across country for a move he came along with us in the backseat. I think it was the happiest time in his life – to have just me and my guy and him in an enclosed space for hours and days at a time. 😊

    • I really do understand the yearning to have another dog, Pam, and can feel the sadness with you upon losing Henry. Zena is 14, and I’m aware that her time will be here much sooner than I could ever be ready. We have watched our friends go through this season of losing beloved pets and some jump right back to bringing in another dog to love and be part of the family, and others, can’t do it. I wonder about us, quite frankly. There is so much responsibility assigned to the decision, and as we are getting older, it’s already hard to be spontaneous sometimes! LOL! I guess we’ll see when the time comes, but I hope you’ll let us know if you do bring in another family member. πŸ™‚

      Sorry I didn’t respond for well over a month. I don’t know how I missed your smiling face. πŸ™‚

      • The good news is that we have two grand-dogs nearby. Charlie is 14 – like your dog! – and sleeps most of the time. But when I enter the house, he rouses himself to give me a hug, which means so much. Charlotte is 1 1/2 and all golden bouncing love. Really helps bring some dog love into my heart. Stay well, and give your pets a hug from me.

  15. I do hope Darwin never charges you – I suspect he’d send you sprawling! He’d have a fight for the Watermelon if Epi saw it πŸ˜‰ Sorry to read about Zena’s eye issue – she’ll need you more than ever now. I’m glad you were able to find a source of sugar for your Hummers πŸ™‚ It was hard work trying to look after family during the first lockdown in the UK – Epi is very high risk due to her heart valves, so I had to do all the shopping, Additionally, Alasdair was stuck in his University, in Leicester, so we had some of those worries that you can’t scratch 😦 Apart from that, fortunately I don’t have any irl pets (except for my trucks and they drink virtual diesel πŸ˜‰ I do, however, have to ensure feed supplies for our garden birds, not least for the Sparrows and Starlings. Both of those are on the UK Red List after major drops in their populations over the past decade. Fortunately CJ Wildlife were able to continue their good service through the pandemic with only a little delay to deliveries because the warehouse couldn’t be fully staffed. I’m pleased to report that as of mid-September 2021, we have a flock of around 30 House Sparrows creating a ruckus in the Buddleia at the bottom of the garden and around 10 Starlings that fly in each day to decimate our supply of fat-balls. It’s fun watching them squabbling πŸ˜‰

    • I am sorry I missed your comment to my “pandemic and pet” post, Martin, but I’m glad to see it today and to hear about how you’ve come through some of the worries of the last 18 months. I can imagine it to ve very worrisome where Epi is concerned. Anyone with a health condition required then, and continues to need, such specific and careful monitoring. At a time when we still don’t know all that we will perhaps learn in the future about the virus’s transmission, all we can do is be very careful and isolate as much as we can. I hope it continues to ease up some, as we are experiencing some relief, but let’s see how we all get through fall and winter, and the holiday gatherings. Also hearing that Alasdair was at school and unable to be with you would have been very difficult. In comparison, caring for pets was good distraction from other troubles.

      Enjoy those sparrows! I love watching birds. That, to me, is better than therapy!

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  17. Good morning, Debra, Thank you for the stories and photos of your pets, Rocky looks good, very well fed. Your hummingbirds made me smile. So sorry to hear about Zena, she has gone through a lot. Your love makes her life easier… Glad to hear you made a trip to beach. We are far from beach, but hope to enjoy sea later this year.
    We had two dogs, they were so sweet. Mackenzie died several years ago. I cried every day when I drove home from work… I still miss her. Evan had a heart attack died when he was 14 on July 4th.

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