Adapting has been the name of the game during the COVID-19 pandemic. For some Gunnison Valley locals, that may mean adapting to a new family member, as pet adoptions for one local nonprofit have soared in the last few weeks.
President of the Gunnison Underdog Rescue (GUR) Deb Callihan calls them “pandemic pets” or “COVID canines,” animals that have been abandoned or relinquished during the spread of the novel coronavirus. From dogs to rats to hamsters, Callihan estimates that they’ve placed 20 to 25 critters into new homes in just two months.
“People have real time to think about adoption right now,” she said. “People are very scattered in their everyday lives, right now they have time to think through adopting and take time to bond and train them.”
Callihan and her fellow board members and volunteers have been “extra busy” conducting phone interviews with potential adopters, setting up meet and greets and following up on the pet’s new homes — all while keeping social distancing measures in check.
COVID-19 restrictions have certainly caused GUR’s volunteers to adjust to new practices. Callihan recalled having the police show up to one of her first meet and greets when the restrictions were put into place for suspicion of “gathering,” although the group got off as they were donning masks and keeping six feet of distance.
Now, the volunteers have adopted a “fairly successful” method when introducing the pets to their possible owners. Callihan particularly noted how all parties have cooperated with county health orders, and expressed thanks for community partners like the Critter Sitters clinic, that has assisted as a temporary home for some of the pets.
Callihan said the group has also curated a long list of possible volunteers and fosters during the pandemic, and that the community has even helped in keeping their stock of supplies full.
“If we need food, crates, anything, we generally get more than we can use,” she said.
While GUR has had no returns for any of their pandemic pets yet, Callihan mentions that sending an animal home to a new family — even though the nonprofit thoroughly vets their adopters — is always a “leap of faith.” That chance is especially true during times of COVID-19, as GUR emphasizes the lifelong commitment that adopting a pet entails.
“They have to be in it for the life of the animal, not just to keep you company while you’re binging on Netflix,” Callihan said.
(Roberta Marquette can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at email@example.com.)