Juno the dog: ‘It was love at first sight’My wife was firmly in the ‘cats, not dogs’ camp but our children wanted a dog. When lockdown came chinks appeared in my wife’s armour and I picked up Juno the goldador (a cross breed between a golden retriever and a labrador). It was love at first sight. My wife mocks my devotion. In particular, she laughs at the adoring gaze, once reserved for her, that she says crosses my face several times a day. I have already spent more time picking up poo than I had ever envisaged I might do in my life. But I rarely complain. Our lives were full of joy before Juno, now there’s just a little more around. Adam Montgomery, 54, leadership trainer and coach, Malvern
Animal magic: how my pet saved me
Cloudy and Feathers the chickens: ‘They give me a reason to be out in the fresh air’Sarah’s daughters with their two Bantam hens.In early June, desperate for something new, uplifting and a little educational for our daughters we took home two young bantams. They are very docile, easy to maintain and full of character. They are also remarkably tolerant of small children. During the first lockdown, the chickens motivated us to spend time in the garden every day. Now the girls are back at school, looking after the chickens continues to give me a reason to be out in the fresh air. It’s surprisingly soothing to watch them potter about, and I can’t deny that I still enjoy sitting on the garden bench with them on my lap. Sarah Dove, 38, Basingstoke
Keep Your Gum & Candy Stored Away. Many gums & candies include xylitol, a sugar substitute that’s highly toxic and can be fatal to dogs. Keep all candies and gum far out of reach of your pets at all times. Here’s a list of common household items that are known to contain xylitol.
Fitz and Simmons the dogs: ‘Our lives are much more fulfilled’José with his partner Marc and their two siberian husky puppies.Having dogs was a distant dream as I never thought I’d leave London, but a few months into lockdown I agreed with my employer that I would continue to WFH three days a week once we return to the office. Before Fitz and Simmons, our siberian husky puppies, came into our lives I struggle to remember what life was like. Training has been much tougher than expected but our bond is very strong and our lives are much more fulfilled. My boss mentioned that I need to work on my work-life balance and she thought the puppies would help – and they do! They are wonderful little companions and while they are hard work, they bring us joy and happiness. We joke that it’s like having kids – but with four legs and razor-sharp teeth! José Antonio Barrientos, works in communications, Sandgate
Blake, Cole, Alfie and Poe the gerbils and Shelley the hamster: ‘They are always happy and joyful in a world that seems pretty bleak’Clockwise from left: Blake, Shelley, Cole, Alfie and Poe.When I realised back in June that I’d be at home for a while, I took the plunge and bought a female Syrian hamster, Shelley. Playing with her is the best part of my day. She asks for so little and gives me so much joy in return. My partner, disappointed that Shelley was nocturnal, bought two gerbils, Blake and Byron. Sadly, Byron passed away after two weeks due to a chronic health condition so we bought more and now have four gerbils: Blake, Cole, Alfie and Poe. The boys have such a sweet dynamic. Gerbils have a deep emotional life: they are always happy and joyful in a world that seems pretty bleak at the moment. Katherine Allvey, 33, writer, London
Make sure your pet is in good company. Pets get lonely and depressed just like people do when they spend too much time alone. Cats are generally better on their own, but dogs and especially puppies don’t do well left to their own devices for extended periods of time.
Beaky the dog: ‘She’s nuts and we love her to bits’Deb: ‘She’s super company’She is our 7th rescue greyhound. We were lucky to get her in lockdown as she came to us straight from the trainer in April. It took her a couple of weeks to settle in as she was incredibly nervous at first. She is now relaxed and is nuts – we love her to bits. She’s also the laziest dog we have ever had and loves her lie-ins. She’s got used to dogs other than greyhounds, never having met them before, and has a really sweet nature. We’ve enjoyed getting lovely long walks with her during the summer and I’m really glad we took her in – it was a good decision. Deb Shotton, 60, company director, Ramsgate
Pip the cat: ‘She’s definitely the queen of the house and we are her loyal servants’Selina: ‘She’s give us comfort when we’ve been feeling low’Getting a kitten started out as a joke but after three months of lockdown we bought a maine coon kitten and called her Pip. I was surprised at just how much of a difference she’s made to our mental health. She’s given us comfort when we’ve been feeling low and looking after her means you can’t spend all day in bed – we’ve become a crazy cat couple. My partner is at high risk of getting Covid-19 so we’ve been very cautious. We might not be able to see friends, or go out for an evening, but Pip is always here and up for a game or chin scratches. She’s definitely the queen of the house and we are her loyal servants. Selina, 29, development editor, London
Many dogs have a condition nicknamed “Frito Feet,” in which their feet smell little bit like corn chips. As Matt Soniak wrote in a Big Question on this site, this has to do with the kind of bacteria found on a pup’s feet, and “could be due to yeast or Proteus bacteria. Both are known for their sweet, corn tortilla–like smell. Or it could be Pseudomonas bacteria, which smell a little fruitier—but pretty close to popcorn to most noses.”
Sable and Snowdrop the guinea pigs: ‘Now that I am responsible for them I have a purpose in life’Helen: ‘They’re warm and cuddly’I had two guinea pigs about 10 years ago, so I asked myself, why not again? Rescue centres were closed but I managed to locate a pair who came with everything they needed. Living on my own, the guinea pigs have helped hugely: just having two little living beings around,hearing them rustling about, and squeaking when they hear the fridge door open. Sable and Snowdrop’s personalities are as contrasting as their appearance. Best of all, they are warm and cuddly – it’s not the same as hugging a human, but better than no contact at all. Now that I am responsible for them I have a purpose in life. Helen Nicolson, 71, retired, Manchester
Lyra the cat: ‘We have been bonding into mutual dependency’Owen: ‘My feeling of wellbeing has increased’I had lost two cats (half-sisters, both in their teens) in the past 18 months to illness, so when the government announced the new lockdown, my first thought was how will I get through this without one? On the Monday after lockdown, as if by destiny, my daughter asked me if I would take on a stray adopted by one of her colleagues. In the few days she has been with me, we have been bonding into mutual dependency, sharing attention and affection, and learning each other’s needs. My feeling of wellbeing has increased in such a short time. Owen W Knight, 71, author, Essex
Alfie the cat: ‘He’s a pretty good TV watching buddy’Bev: ‘I grew to be a cat fan’I’ve always been a dog person but having house shared with a very sweet cat I grew to be a fan. Me and my partner bought a place together a few months before lockdown and aimed to get a pet. I emailed Cats Protection to ask when they thought they’d open after lockdown and they offered a hands-free rehoming service. We spotted Alfie on the list and they brought him to us – it felt a bit like Deliveroo-ing a cat. We loved him immediately and he’s helped by giving us something to focus on beyond the rubbishness of lockdown. It’s been nice watching him settle in and get more confident (he’s a natural scaredy cat). He’s a pretty good TV-watching buddy, and he kept us warm by sitting on our laps when our heating broke. Bev, 36, works as a development manager for a charity, Bristol
Use a Bright Colored Bandana On Your Dog During Hunting Season. Make sure both you & your dog stick out if you’re going to be out walking during hunting season. You can wear bright colors (orange is preferred), and you can help keep your dog safe by having them wear a bright orange bandana.
Disco the bird: ‘He throws awkward wolf whistles into Zoom calls’Leon: ‘I have no regrets getting him’I already had one bird but during peak lockdown we had Disco delivered by a specialist courier despite him coming from only 15 miles away. Watching him grow from six-weeks old and timid to the curious, intelligent and charming little tootle-box he is today has made the year that much more tolerable. In his nine months of life he’s developed countless quirks and has become a feathered jukebox with ‘Happy birthday to you’, ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ and the Addams Family on repeat. He also throws awkward wolf whistles into Zoom calls. I have no regrets getting him. His presence has lifted spirits and has helped take the attention off all the doom and gloom. Leon Samsworth, 34, student, Devon
Experience: I’m a full-time cat sitter
Woody the cat: ‘Has me wrapped around his little paw’Jenny: ‘Woody has me wrapped around his little paw’We are both teachers and so when we went into lockdown the new world of online teaching was a real shock to us both. After a couple of months we got Woody – he’s my little buddy who follows me around and sleeps close to me. Our only problem is he likes to be stroked and cuddled throughout the night and won’t stop waking you up until you do, which means we haven’t had a full night’s sleep for five months. I know the simple solution is to keep him out the bedroom but I just don’t have the heart to do it. I’m usually quite assertive but I can fully acknowledge Woody has me wrapped around his little paw. In a time of stress, anxiety and the unknown he has given us so much joy and we will always be eternally grateful to him. We are a little family now and we both love him very much. Jenny, 34, teacher, Liverpool
basic puppy socialization