Perhaps it was the perk-you-up wiggly tail. Or it was the comforting rub around the ankles.
Or it was those funny chirps that say, “I’m starving!” that only a leopard gecko can produce.
Lonely times can come around every year, but COVID-19 made them worse in 2020, and quite a number of people turned to pets to help them make it through.
Kids pulled dogs, cats and even fish into camera view to meet their online classes. Adults wanted something to pet while reading or watching news reports.
Pets were a distraction, exercise partners, cuddlers, playmates and breathing bodies of living joy that could care less about COVID-19.
A Bank of America poll released in September called it a “pet boom.” Of the 1,000 consumers it polled, 69% had at least one animal and 37% adopted a pet in the six months prior to September.
The poll’s analysts also recommended investors buy stock in Chew Inc., Tractor Supply Co. and General Mills Inc.
Net sales for the online pet retailer Chewy grew 46% and then 47% year-over-year in the first two quarters of 2020, in part because online spending went up, according to its shareholder letters.
However, it’s likely quite new pet ownership had something to do with it, too.
J&M Aquatics in Grand Junction has been “crazy busy” since March when it was deemed an essential business, said Linda Morrison, head manager for the store.
They don’t sell dogs and sometimes have a few cats available from area adoption centers, so customers came in seeking reptiles, she said.
The big requests were for chameleons, leopard geckos — “they’re just so easy to keep here in the desert” — and bearded dragons, Morrison said.
For snakes, customers wanted ball pythons and red-tail boa. They don’t carry much in the way of boas, but everybody wanted one this year, she said.
Shortly after the Colorado stay-at-home order came, so did the customers, to the point that the store sold out of certain animals and then had a hard time getting them back in stock, she said.
It was crazy then, “but it is still busy, even now,” Morrison said.
And if they did offer dogs, she has no doubt they would have been huge as well.
For Cheryl Munkres, a dog was the pet she needed in 2020.
“I am a single lady and was feeling lonely. I needed something to love and care for,” Munkres wrote in an email.
Simone came into her life on April 1 when Munkres adopted her from Roice-Hurst Humane Society.
“Simone was found wandering the streets of Phoenix and brought here with some other dogs. Luckily for both of us, we found each other,” Munkres wrote. “When I got her, she did not know how to play. Now she wants to play all the time.”
Julie and Todd Boyd also found they needed something positive in their lives when the shutdown happened.
It seemed like everything was being canceled, their 4-year-old son, Lyman, couldn’t go to preschool “and we weren’t even sure it was safe to go to the playground,” Julie Boyd said.
In the meantime, the Delta family missed the two older Corgis they had to say good-bye to in January.
They wanted another Corgi, a breed that is good with kids and “can’t jump out of the yard,” Julie Boyd said. They planned to get a puppy during the summer, but finding themselves stuck at home, they decided to move up the timeline.
Julie Boyd looked for a local Corgi breeder, but no one had puppies available. She finally found a breeder in Wichita Falls, Texas, with one cute pup. “He was the leftover puppy that no one had taken,” she said.
The Boyds just happened to have family traveling through Texas who were able to pick up the puppy and bring him home. They named him Roubideau after Roubideau Canyon, one of their favorite spots.
“He’s just the happiest little dog. Very sweet, gets along with everybody,” Julie Boyd said. “He just kind of cheered everybody up.”
“He still chews up anything he can get, a shoe, a bike seat or a strand of Christmas lights, but really he’s a very good boy and keeps us smiling,” she said.
While some found a new pet to be what they needed during the spring, for others it took a while longer.
For Carol and Jerry Burshek, a new pet was the thing they didn’t know they needed until 2020.
“Both of us are cat people,” Carol Burshek said.
They had a Siamese cat and a Persian cat and were quite satisfied.
Being in their 80s, they were not interested in dogs, much less puppies. Then the pandemic hit, and life became extremely boring, Carol Burshek said.
She also was in a lot of pain because she needed back surgery and elective surgeries were not happening.
“So I had a lot of time to get on my cellphone and Google,” she said. “I had hours and hours to pass.”
Since their kids kept pestering them to get a dog, she
Googled dog breeds and her heart became set on a mini-Aussiedoodle.
“They’re so smart they can do your taxes,” she said.
After her surgery and recuperation, she found a breeder and Maggie May came home in September.
Carol Burshek named her after the Rod Stewart song. “You stole my heart, you stole my soul,” she said, repeating the lyrics. “We’re so glad we got a dog, now. She’s so smart she nearly trained herself.”
“We have had some people look at us sort of cross-eyed like, ‘Do you know they live 12 years?’ ” she said.
They do, and their daughter said she would be honored to take Maggie May should anything happen to her parents.
“That clinched it,” Carol Burshek said.
While the Persian isn’t so happy at having a puppy in the house, the Siamese will play and cuddle up with Maggie May.
“She’s just our everything now,” Carol Burshek said.
It is 2020 after all.