Pets adjusting to post-pandemic world, too

A few weeks ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that people who were fully vaccinated for COVID-19 could see other fully vaccinated people without mask and distancing restrictions. My husband, Ed, and I welcomed the news by inviting our daughter, Jordan, and her boyfriend, Alex, to dinner along with our good friends Sean and Melissa.

While we had seen Jordan a few times over the last year, this would be the first time for the other three since March 2020. We had kept in touch, but to see everyone in person was a happy event. After a few minutes of “Hey, Stranger!” and “You’re a sight for sore eyes,” we were talking and laughing as if the pandemic had never occurred.

We were back to our “normal” and it felt good. The isolation we at times felt, the missed holiday celebrations and parties weren’t important anymore.

What we had forgotten was that Teddy, our 7-year-old Lab, also had not seen any of his human friends this past year.

Teddy greeted Jordan excitedly with tail wagging. He had seen her occasionally so his behaviors, including nudging and asking for tummy rubs, amounted to his usual “happy to see big sis” routine. He was less enthused with Alex and Sean but still happy and welcoming.

Then the pooch stopped.

He saw Melissa.

Teddy has known Melissa for as long as he has known our family. A volunteer with Love of Labs Indiana, the rescue organization from which we acquired Teddy, Melissa helped with the adoption and came with us to Indianapolis to meet him 6 ½ years ago.

Teddy adores his unofficial “godmother,” and Melissa babies him, bringing him toys and treats and giving him belly rubs on demand. Melissa and Sean live with two Labs of their own and Sean jokes that he wants to come back in another life as one of Melissa’s pets.

Teddy walked up to Melissa, then sniffed around her shoes. He licked her hands. It was if he was checking to make sure it really was his long, lost friend.

Once he was sure, Teddy jumped for joy. He zoomed around the house. When he came back, he immediately turned over for Melissa to rub his tummy.

Then the Lab did something he’s never done. Teddy started singing. He was one truly happy pup.

I guess we shouldn’t have been all that surprised.

According to Animal Planet, multiple studies have found dogs show greater affection toward their owners the longer they are apart. As the time away increases, so can the dog’s excitement.

In this case, Teddy was back together with his “pack” – Ed, Jordan, Melissa and me. The two other people were a bonus. The Lab had our complete attention and relished it. At dinner, Teddy ate more quickly than usual. As soon as he was finished, he took multiple toys from his toy box to play with Melissa or anyone else who wanted to join in the fun.

As Caryn Anderson at writes, “Your dog is going to be happy and relieved to see you, so it’s important to give him your full and undivided attention.”

And that’s what we did.

We’re all adjusting to life slowly moving away from COVID-19. Teddy reminded us that our pets are doing the same.

Signs a dog recognizes its owner:

1. Barking

2. Panting

3. Jumping up

4. Sniffing

5. Pacing


About the Author