People with pets are dealing with isolation by getting out to the dog park, while keeping safe distances from each other.

Sheltering in place in these days of COVID-19

There’s an unnatural quiet in San Francisco.

There’s an unnatural quiet in San Francisco. The tourist areas are eerily silent. Neighborhood streets are deserted. Because of coronavirus, San Franciscans have been told to stay home. And they appear to be doing just that.

At 65, I’m in the high risk “senior” group that could develop serious complications if exposed tothe virus. So, I’m staying in. I have plenty of Amy’s frozen dinners (organic, vegetarian, and very tasty). And I have enough toilet paper, thanks to a regular shopping trip a few weeks ago.

By the way, our community is not running out of food. We’re just seeing a restocking issue caused by people hoarding much larger amounts of food and supplies than they usually buy and more than they really need. If people stop panic buying, the checkout lines and empty shelves should disappear.

Several young people in their twenties rent the house next to mine. We wave “Hi” to one another, but we don’t really know each other well. But they know I’m older (can’t hide the gray hair) and that I live alone with my dog.

On the afternoon the shelter-in-place order was announced, my doorbell rang. Amy, one of the “kids” from next door, said she just wanted to check if I was okay, and to ask if I needed groceries or anything else. I was really touched by her gesture. That same afternoon, another young friend told me to be sure to call him just to talk if I began to feel isolated.

I’ve talked with other seniors, and nearly all of us have had younger neighbors – even ones we hardly knew – offer to get groceries for us. It’s nice to see millennials and others stepping up and checking in on all of us old-timers. A bright spot in a dark situation.

Because of the shelter-in-place order, I told my housecleaner not to come this week. And my dog walker decided to not work during the emergency. I intend to pay both of them for the days they would have worked under normal circumstances. They shouldn’t have to pay a financial price for something that’s completely out of their control. I hope others, if they’re able, do the same for anyone who performs similar services for them.

Since the lockdown, I’ve been taking my dog to the park twice a day. All the dog people are staying six feet away from each other as we throw the ball or watch our pooches play. But we can still talk to one another, a nice break in the isolation.

Many people have wondered if pets are at risk from the disease. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there is no evidence at this point that pets can become ill with COVID-19 or spread the disease to other animals, including humans. Here’s a link to answers to frequently asked questions.

But can you get it if someone with the disease pets your dog? You can pick up COVID-19 if you touch a contaminated surface that is smooth and non-porous, like a countertop or doorknob.

But other things, like paper money and pet hair, don’t transmit viruses as easily because their porous, fibrous materials absorb and trap the virus, making it harder to contract by simply touching the money or hair.

The AVMA says that it is “very unlikely that you could contract COVID-19 by petting or playing with your pet.” But they recommend washing your hands before and after interacting with animals, even when there isn’t a pandemic. So, to keep other people’s anxieties low and out of an abundance of caution, I’m trying very hard not to pet the dogs I see at the park.

So, let’s all continue to hunker down and slow the spread of this virus. I’ve got crosswords and jigsaw puzzles, Godiva chocolates, “Star Trek” fan fiction, TV to binge watch, a playful dog and lots of spring cleaning to keep me occupied.

Continue to check on family, friends and neighbors. Give the delivery guy an extra tip. Support the people who perform services for you even if they can’t do them during this emergency.

Together, we will get through this. Stay calm. And stay healthy, everyone.

Sally Stephens is an animal, park, and neighborhood activist who lives in the West of Twin Peaks area. She is a guest opinion columnist and her point of view is not necessarily that of The Examiner.

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