Covid-19 unleashes need for daycare of frontline workers’ dogs

‘They are frontline workers, nurses or doctors. Their dog still had to be minded’

Frontline healthcare workers who are giving their all in the fight against coronavirus need a helping hand to care for their four-legged friends.

Naomi Tracey, owner of the Canine Centre in Churchtown Business Park, Dublin, had to close her business when the coronavirus restrictions came into place.

As the Covid-19 crisis deepened, she needed to diversify, so she set up a flexible service for frontline healthcare workers so she can look after their pets while they are at work.

“For the past 10 years, I’ve been running a doggy daycare with a grooming salon and a hydrotherapy pool. When we were closed down, and rightly so, as all the restrictions came in place, I thought there would have been a few people who would be very stuck,” Ms Tracey said.

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Medical staff

“They are frontline workers with the HSE, they’re nurses or doctors. You know, maybe they lived in an apartment, their dog still had to be minded, and it wasn’t like they could leave them with their parents who might have been cocooning. And going, as medical staff, in and out of houses, it wouldn’t have been safe.”

Ms Tracey looks after up to 10 dogs per day, with some staying in her house overnight, depending on the shifts their owners are working.

To drop off the dogs, the owner enters a pen in front of the premises, takes the dog off the leash before exiting the pen and closing the gate behind them. Ms Tracey then lets the dog out from her side of the pen, rubs them down with sanitising foam, and takes them into the centre.

“We have the paddling pool out at the minute. I made them some frozen yoghurts at the weekend because the weather was so nice. Generally we’re outside as much as possible. So they can run around and have the craic and get rid of all their energy,” she added.

Seriously ill

In recent weeks, Ms Tracey has also begun to take care of dogs which belong to people who have become seriously ill with coronavirus.

One pup, a red-haired mixed-breed dog, is living with her “for the foreseeable future” as her two owners remain in hospital with Covid-19.

“The neighbours had been looking after the dog for a few weeks, but they just felt it wasn’t fair and the daughter wasn’t able to cope on her own,” she said.

“They asked me to take in the dog for the foreseeable future. But thankfully, mum and dad survived. They’re still in hospital, but they’re not in ICU anymore and they’re not on ventilators. They hope to take the dog back now when things settle down a bit.”

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times