When my maternity leave ended with my first son, I was a mess. I didn’t know how I was going to leave my tiny baby with some stranger. Although my dog wasn’t my child, leaving him alone for the first time wasn’t much easier.
Pet parents go through a similar roller coaster of emotions when they leave their new pet alone for the first time. Yet, many of them do not or cannot take time off to get their new pet acclimated to their new surroundings before they are left alone. Many domesticated pets, especially dogs, are pack animals. They are not meant to be alone. Our pets are family members, so why do businesses offer new parents paid time off, but new pet owners have to take a financial hit if they need some time off when they get a new pet?
“Pawternity” leave is a growing trend in the U.K. as well as for some U.S. pet-based businesses. Yep, you read that right, pawternity — it’s paid time off for the arrival of a new pet. Yes, I know, there are some people out there who will find this ridiculous, especially since many companies in the U.S. offer pretty dismal maternity and paternity leave benefits now. But as a parent and a pet owner, I am all for pawternity.
I am a dog owner and currently a dog foster. As a foster, it’s my job to help make a rescue dog adoptable. Most of the time, these poor souls have already been neglected and abused. By giving them a loving home, I help them trust people and other dogs again. Sometimes I see a dog get returned in less than 48 hours after adoption because they were left alone too soon. Some of the excuses are: The dog is no longer potty trained, he has separation anxiety or “he tried to bite me.” There is always a decompression period when you bring a cat or dog into a new environment. Think about how you would feel to have your life disrupted. All the sudden, you’re plucked from one place, plopped in another and left by yourself.
The good news is that these behaviors are fixable with a little patience and time. Yes, the keyword is time. Unfortunately, with most people’s work schedules, this is a problem. Most new pet parents cannot afford to take off work to help acclimate their new furbaby into their home. This is why I’m all for pawternity leave. It’s a great solution for those who want a pet but need the extra time to spend with them in the beginning.
Before I had kids, both my husband and I took vacation days to care for our newly adopted puppy. We each spent a week with the little furball to work on his house training and kennel training. The first few days were very hard on him. Until we adopted him, he had spent his whole life surrounded by his siblings and mother. Now, he only had us. We had a short two weeks to teach him how to be alone. In our case, the two weeks was enough time to get him acclimated, but some pets may need more time. And, when my beloved pup passed away 14 years later, we both took some personal time off of work to grieve. He was a loved member of our family.
Spending one-on-one time with your pet will help you solve many of the issues that pet owners often complain about. Pets benefit from the comfort of being cared for by a loving person, especially after spending time in an animal shelter. You can stave off separation anxiety before it becomes destructive, and housebreak your pet before you ruin your carpet. Most importantly, they are less likely to be returned or given up if time is given to properly acclimate them to their new environment.
While we are fighting for better maternity and paternity benefits, let’s also fight for our pawternity benefits. I know that it’ll take awhile to catch on here, but it can’t hurt to try. They are members of our family, and it would be great if businesses would take new pet owners’ needs into consideration as well.