Charlotte and Georgia sitting in front of park sign of Covid Restrictions

Caring for Your Dogs During Covid-19 and Wildfires

Do They Make Masks for Dogs?

Caring for your dogs during Covid-19 and wildfires, if you live in the Western States, can be quite a challenge! From what I have read, pets are basically pretty safe from Covid. The virus does not usually transmit from humans to their pets, but research is still being done and the CDC has a whole web page devoted to Covid-19 and animals. Although a handful of Covid cases involving pets or other animals have been reported worldwide, they seem to be a rare occurrence. In those few situations, which included dogs and a zoo tiger, the animals had excessive exposure to someone with Covid and seemed to have some underlying conditions (like being in a zoo for one).

So far, scientists have not recommended masks for dogs or other pets to protect them against Covid-19. At least, I could not find anyone who said it was necessary. And, as far as I know, pet masks do not exist. But just to be safe, I tried to fashion a couple of dog-friendly masks myself. I first tried to tie bandanas around each dog’s neck and nose, but they just shook them off. Next I tried to secure a couple of my cloth masks around their ears, but this turned out to be a hilarious and futile effort! So, I let go of that experiment.

Caring for your dogs during Covid-19 and wildfires can be challenging! Charlotte and Georgia with cloth masks falling off their heads.
This is not worth any amount of treats!

Wildfires and Smoke on Top of Covid-19

To add insult to injury, the Western United States was recently set ablaze by a series of freak lightning strikes. The record-setting high temperatures and dry conditions created a perfect tinder box for burning over a million acres in California alone. I live in the North Bay and it has been inundated with thick, acrid smoke for weeks. So, I quickly switched from my cloth Covid mask to an N-95 model, which I was happy to discover in one of my wildfire emergency kits I purchased last year.

Last week I woke up to this eerie red, dark sky full of ominous smoke. At 9am the sun was just a small, pale dot above the red umbrella in my backyard.

But what to do for my doggies? Caring for dogs during Covid-19 and wildfires was really becoming a challenge! So, I searched the internet — nothing about N-95 masks for dogs. I did find one very interesting article about an innovative woman in Southern California who donated 7,500 oxygen masks for dogs and other animals to hundreds of fire departments following the recent wildfires. Her donations saved the lives of many pets who escaped from the wildfires with their owners.

I was thankful that our home did not burn down, and grateful to the thousands of fire fighters who finally contained most of the blazes by last week. But the aftermath of smoke and hazardous air meant that we had to severely limit our walks to the park. I closed off the doggie door, shut all of the windows, and kept the girls inside for several days.

Charlotte looks longingly at her backyard.

On the good days when it was okay to go out for short walks, I did not wear my N-95 mask despite warnings from my good friend Jayne. I wanted to make sure that the dogs would be okay. If I wore a mask I couldn’t smell smoke. But without a mask, I could immediately sense the smoke if the wind changed and would make a beeline for home. Of course, I still had my cloth Covid mask tucked away in my back pocket for proper social distancing.

All that said, keeping the dogs safe was easier than keeping them entertained! It was fairly easy to keep them inside from the smoke. And, when we could get out for a walk, the girls and I were already very good at social distancing (to avoid potential dog fights). So, we always gave wide berth to other doggies who were also walking their owners in the park. And, no petting by strangers was allowed.

I also had emergency supplies packed for the dogs along with my own “to go bag” in case we needed to evacuate. In March, I also sent out a set of instructions to my sister and friends about how to care for Charlotte and Georgia in the event I became sick with Covid. I attached a list of dog supplies and indicated where they were stashed in the house. Since, Charlotte and Georgia placed a high priority on eating on time, I also left very specific feeding instructions.

My emergency items included:

  • A spare 5 pound bag of dog food
  • Some dog treats
  • A second set of leashes and bowls in the car
  • Emergency water packets in the car
  • Extra poop bags in the hall closet and car
  • Two doggie backpacks with water, snacks, & collapsible bowls
  • 3 emergency kits in the house/car from readyamerica.com

I had other stuff in the garage like lanterns, battery operated fans, two weeks worth of food and supplies, and some petty cash. So, we were about as prepared as possible!

Boredom Sets In

Charlotte and Georgia grew more and more restless after the wildfires with so many additional restrictions. They were really missing their long hikes and trips to the beach. The girls loved to run and bark at imaginary intruders in our small backyard, but they also needed bigger areas to explore.

Due to the smoke, we had to curtail our short walks to park. Because of Covid, they couldn’t even play with the sweet little kids next door, who used to come over 3-4 times a week. Although Covid does not seem to spread to pets, doctors have still advised against letting other people pet your dogs. I temporarily stopped taking them to doggie day care–mostly due to the smoke. However, regarding Covid, the kennels and day care seemed pretty safe otherwise, since it was mostly dogs. The real bummer was when I discovered that all of the dog parks were closed because of Covid and social distancing requirements. We all enjoyed the dog park. Even the tennis court where I let them chase balls was now closed! So, what’s a dog momma to do?

We improvised. We played games in the house. I tossed balls up the stairs to the 2nd floor to get them to run up and down. Sometimes we played tug of war with socks and other toys. But I think their favorite was “find the treats” game. I put them in the downstairs bathroom and hid treats all over the house — under mats, under my shoes, on the stairs, and so on. They got the hang of it after a couple of times and charged out of the bathroom quickly sniffing out their treats. I also put peanut butter in their small Kong treat toys, which are red, hard rubber, rocking toys with holes for food. This kept them busy for a whole 20 minutes!

Finally, at the end of the day they were happily asleep!

All in all, I think we have done pretty well managing throughout a complicated summer. The smoke is beginning to clear up and cooler temperatures are on the way. Soon, we will head out for adventurous new hikes, long walks in the park, and exciting visits to the beach! Blessings to you and your furry friends! Deanna, Charlotte, and Georgia

Fast asleep!

Please leave your comments about how you are caring for your dogs during Covid and these 2020 bizarre weather conditions. I would love to hear from you!

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