Never in recent memory have we been more isolated, nor, ironically, felt more connected. Gathered in front of our computer and smart-phone screens, we peer into the lives of fellow dog folk near and far, remembering a time when we actually lived life as opposed to sheltering in place from it.
Dog News reached out to a number of prominent fanciers across the globe to get a first-person account of life in their respective homelands. Scroll down for their individual slices of life, as well as what we all have in common: A fervent desire to have the whole pie back as soon as humanly possible.
United Kingdom • Vince Hogan
The situation in the United Kingdom mirrors most other countries in the world right now, both on a medical and human front and also for dog people.
Ironically the last show to take place here was the biggest of the year, Crufts, held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham over a month ago. That event in itself was fortunate to be allowed to take place, and in fact a number of trade stands pulled out because of staff issues and fears of the oncoming virus. In the end, 150,000 visitors came, only days before the UK went into serious lockdown.
The Kennel Club has more or less shut up shop at its Clarges Street headquarters and “furloughed” nearly 50 staff members. All dog shows are cancelled until June 30, and then a reassessment …much like other countries.
The movement of people has restricted puppy collection and delivery, although puppy inquiries seem to have escalated in the crisis ... maybe people want an excuse for going for a walk!
Our Dogs weekly newspaper has relocated all staff to work from home, and so far we have managed to keep publishing both in print and digital formats. Dog people want something to read other than the virus news and also they want to stick together and be there at the other end of this “sci fi” movie that in reality we now find ourselves part of. – Vince Hogan, Our Dogs, Manchester, United Kingdom
Norway • Espen Engh
Compared to most other European countries, Norway has been relatively mildly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. With some 6,500 people having tested positive for the virus, 132 Norwegians have died as of April 13, and the rate of new infections has been going down for the last week or so.
This is no doubt very much due to the early and quite restrictive closing-down measures imposed by the government. These measures included the closing down of dog shows, hunting trials and any other form of organized dog activities from March 12 to June 15, 2020, but may be extended.
The borders are closed, and the import and export of dogs has stopped up completely, the airlines not being willing to ship dogs in or out of the country. Still there seems to be an increased demand for puppies within the country, if anything. Most bitches are being bred within kennels or to local dogs, as travel even within the country is restricted.
The Norwegian Kennel Club (NKK) in Oslo organizes all the FCI international shows around the country, and the income from these shows is vital to the NKK's bottom line. After Norway was hit by a serious canine gastric infection late last year, one of the main shows was cancelled; the closing down of at least four international shows this year as a result of the pandemic has raised serious concerns about the kennel club's financial health. Most of the staff is now on furlough, with only a handful still at work. – Espen Engh, FCI Judge, Lier, Norway
Malaysia • Gopi Krishnan
The Malaysian Kennel Association (MKA) runs two major international show weekends each year, in April and September. As February drew to a close, an urgent decision about our April shows had to be made: Overseas entries were closing at the beginning of March and airline tickets had to be purchased and accommodations booked. The committee decided to cancel the show, seeing how this virus was spreading rapidly across the globe. I think we were one of the first to cancel shows. Days after our decision, the WHO classed it as a pandemic.
Malaysia went into lockdown on March 18 for an initial two weeks, which was extended. As we stand today, we are one month into lockdown with another two weeks to go. Only essential services are open. You can't travel in a car with more than one other person, you can’t travel farther than 10 kilometers from your home, and you can only be out for essentials -- not even exercise!
Due to strict legislation, many apartments don’t allow dogs, and so most people with dogs are in houses.
The real kicker came a week ago, when during a press conference the Director General of Health incorrectly commented that people should not handle their pets, as animals could carry the virus, citing the tiger in an American zoo that was infected. That caused a major issue as shelters were concerned that pets were going to be dumped or, worse still, that street animals (which we have) would be targeted.
Thankfully, in less than six hours the press published a retraction from the Director General saying that people were encouraged to wash their hands after handling pets. Further reassurance came from the Government Veterinary Department, which made it very clear there was no proof that pets could transmit the virus. (However if living with infected humans, animals could possibly get it, but not transmit it.) While this helped qualm fears, it opened a gate of sorts, which led certain militant anti-pet local councils to start rounding up street animals. Another forceful letter from the Vet Department helped to end that, too, and I pray we have seen the end of it.
For us dog shows will certainly not be possible for at least six months after lockdown ends, as the government has mandated no mass gatherings for that period. The lingering effects of this will affect our national club the most. It's at times like these that we have to think hard about reinventing ourselves in terms of how things are run, keeping morale high and everyone still connected. One blessing here is that handlers are not affected, as 98 percent of our dogs are owner-handled.
My heart goes out to so many in our sport whose livelihoods are dependent on dog shows, and I pray this nightmare ends soon with the least possible amount of casualties, not just from the virus, but from its ripple effect. – Gopi Krishnan, FCI Judge, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Italy • Massimo Inzoli
Everything began to change at the end of February with news of the first coronavirus epicenter in Lombardy. From at point there was a succession of negative events: At the beginning of March, all dog events in the short term were cancelled, and the regional offices of the Italian Kennel Club, or ENCI, were closed. The possibility of operating them remotely was given, and a moratorium was placed on submitting litter entries in person, though that continues by mail.
For reasons we don't fully understand, the situation in the north of Italy is more dire compared to the rest of the peninsula. Some believe this is due to the different climatic and environmental conditions, perhaps fog or pollution, which spread the virus in a faster and more aggressive manner. However, the quarantine, business closures and social-removal directives are the same throughout all of Italy.
The situation for breeders is serious because, in addition to the collapse of the demand for pets, there is also the difficulty in delivering puppies to their new homes. In this regard, ENCI has requested a waiver from the ministry to be able to proceed in this direction. After a month and a half, ENCI's regional offices continue to be closed, and all shows and hunting and work trials are canceled until further notice.
With the help of breed clubs, ENCI is organizing online seminars for judges -- perhaps to try to keep people busy, perhaps to try to make use of time that would otherwise be meaninglessly lost.
In its urgency, the health emergency has imposed an acceleration in the use of information technology. ENCI did not allow itself to be caught unprepared, and in a few days activated a system that allowed its business to move forward. Despite the difficulties of the moment, it is the intention of the ENCI board of directors to develop technological platforms in order to computerize important services for dog lovers. We hope that from this terrible experience we can find a positive lesson, and that the passion and professionalism of Italian breeders will soon be reborn from the ashes of this devastation. – Massimo Inzoli, FCI Judge, Caltanissetta, Sicily, Italy
Russia • Igor Vyguzov
Russia was affected by the COVID-19 situation later than most other countries, despite the fact that we share borders with China. Instead, our government confirmed that the majority of infections came via Europe, where thousands of cases already existed when Russia began experiencing its first cases in March. On March 15, for example, we had just 93 confirmed cases of COVID-10, but a month later that number was already 24,490. And in the last few days, we have been seeing more than 2,000 new cases daily.
Moscow has had most of the cases (14,776 on April 15) because it's the biggest hub for tourism, with most visitors coming via Moscow or to experience the city itself.
The Russian government has enacted very strict rules at the moment: All flights out of Russia are canceled, and the borders are closed. Only special government flights are permitted to return Russian citizens from abroad.
Everyone is required to stay home until April 30, and that date might be extended. In Moscow, if you want to go out it needs to be for a specific reason, and you need to get a special QR code.
During this pandemic, the Russian dog world has stopped most activities: Dog shows and sport trials are postponed until June or even later. We hope at that point it will be possible for things to go back to normal.
In April, the Russian Kennel Club (RKF) began offering special online webinars, including many interesting discussions about breeds, breeding, handling and judging. Almost every day we have a new topic, and access is free. We have many well-known speakers from around the world, and some topics are presented in English as well. (Everyone is welcome to join: Visit http://rkf.org.ru/.)
The RKF has also adapted to facilitate communication and workflow via the internet. Dog clubs from all over the country as well as Russian fanciers in quarantine can connect online with its main office, allowing them to order pedigrees and register litters. Similarly, all the kennel club's committees are working online. I think the Russian Kennel Club is doing a great job during this difficult period, keeping the kennel club's affairs going and giving fanciers a free education while they are stuck at home.
We all hope this pandemic situation will be over as soon as possible. – Igor Vyguzov, FCI Judge, Moscow, Russia
Israel • Yossi Guy
In Mid-February, we began to hear about the coronavirus. My club had to cancel a judge due to arrive from Italy at the end of the month. We then cancelled a March show with a Danish judge, when flights began to be cancelled across the board.
After returning from Crufts, I had to stay in home isolation for 14 days, and by then the entire country was under shutdown. No schools, most shops were closed, and only essential businesses and offices remained open.
The Jewish festival of Passover, a family affair, lost a lot of its traditional appeal, although some families held online Seders with members sitting in different locations due to the actual curfew imposed by the government that night.
With that, all dog shows, working trials and all other gatherings were cancelled. However, the importance of dogs in general rose substantially.
First of all, most people are required to remain within 100 meters of their home, but this doesn't apply to those who have a dog and must take it for walks. I look forward to these breaks from staying at home, as do many other dog owners.
You are also allowed to take your dog to the vet, if necessary. That provides a great excuse to drive somewhere, and if stopped you can give that as an alibi.
Dog groomers have now been allowed to provide service under certain conditions. Many trainers have begun to give online lessons and sessions, both free and paid, and dog owners are definitely using these services. Some trainers who specialize in agility and heelwork to music are giving seminars and tips.
To top it all, the demand for puppies and adult dogs is at an all-time high. Since families are stuck at home, many with children who drive them up the wall, they are looking for the companionship that humans cannot provide at the moment.
I have two puppies at the moment. I could probably find good homes for 10. That allows me to screen the applicants properly. In most cases they are families with children but there are also older adults who cannot even see their children, young people and everything in between.
This goes for pounds with dogs for adoption too. The big question is whether these pounds will be full again after the plague is over. Hopefully not. – Yossi Guy, Photographer and Journalist, Haifa, Israel
Canada • Allison Foley
While it seems like we are stuck in a bad zombie movie, I think we are pretty lucky here in Canada. Most things shut down early and we have been in “self-isolation” since the middle of March.
Every morning at 8:15 Eastern time our Prime Minister comes out of his residence (alone) and is calm, cool and collected as he explains the facts. Like him or not, this has been his finest hour. The government has released an aid package that seems to be trying to include as many folks as possible.
Dog shows have stopped, of course. All are cancelled in May and probably most of the June ones as well, but so far most of the July shows are still hopeful. We are allowed to walk in parks and on trails, though we avoid each other as we do. But it is nice to get the dogs out.
Groomers have had to stop working. Vets are being amazing and doing what is needed while we wait in the car. I grocery-shop for my mom and other seniors. I even saw toilet paper the other day!
Life as we have known it is over, things will change all over the world. I’m not religious, but I pray for all my friends and family all over the world. – Allison Foley, Leading Edge Dog Show Academy, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada