Sunday Spotlight: North Salem's pandemic pups

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Rex Kennedy and his siblings at Joe Bohrdrum Park in North Salem. Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo

It’s been a ruff year.

For humans, at least. Less so for dogs. If at times during the past year you have felt that everyone around you was either thinking about, actively in the process of, or had just recently adopted a dog, you were not wrong. The demand for puppies has surged during the pandemic as we have all been spending more time at home and feeling desperately in need of (safe) snuggles.

Across the country, dog adoptions are up. TIMEIME magazine named rescue animals the 2020 ‘pet of the year.’ The ASPCA’s Los Angeles office saw a 70% increase in animals going into foster care in 2020. Breeders can’t keep up with phone calls. In some places, shelters have run out of dogs for adoption.

“I think just about every kid in my daughter’s class has announced at some point that they got a puppy this year,” said Jen Barnett, a North Salem resident and dog owner.

Pepperoni Stamp, a Portuguese Water Dog, makes new friends at JB Park. Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo

The Puchir family adopted Otis, a black English Labrador Retriever, from a breeder in New Jersey just before Christmas. “There was a stress and a heaviness that feels like it was lifted the day he came to us,” said Danielle Gervais-Puchir. “A few months into the pandemic, we realized the timing was perfect to bring home a puppy. Like the rest of the world, we figured, well, we're all home, so now is the time.”

The Coldwell family adopted Trout, a yellow lab, last year and immediately felt similar stress-relieving benefits when he arrived. “My husband says the house feels whole again with a dog hanging around,” said Sarah Coldwell. Trout has proven a healthy distraction from quarantine life. “It's been great seeing our girls focusing on something new. My older two are even interested in helping with training and daily care of the dog, which are both great skills for them to learn,” Coldwell said.

Trout Coldwell, at home in North Salem. Photo courtesy of Sarah Coldwell.

Rocky, a 5-month-old Siberian Husky, joined the Coughlan family late last year. Jackie Coughlan said her youngest son, Liam, had been begging for a dog for quite some time. Last year felt like the right time to fulfill his wish and bring a little joy to him and his older brothers, Dillon and Tommy. The family adopted the pup from outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  and named him Rocky in a nod to the city's iconic film character.

 Liam Coughlan with his newest brother, Rocky.

Preparing for post-pandemic life

While the realization that we would all be staying home for much longer than we first anticipated drove many people to take the plunge with dog ownership, signs are emerging that life will soon start to look a little more like it used to. Conscientious dog owners are taking intentional steps now in order to ease the transition.

Gervais-Puchir’s sister, who is a veterinarian, said that the biggest thing she’s seeing with puppies right now is a lack of socialization. “She said it's so important in those first six months to expose them to other dogs and people as much as you can,” Gervais-Puchir said.

The Kennedy and Levesque families, who are neighbors, have built-in socialization for their new dogs, Rex and Cooper. What's more, the Golden Retriever pups are brothers; the families purchased them from the same breeder. Rex and Cooper can frequently be spotted running around JB Park sharing their brotherly love with other dogs and kids.

Rex Kennedy and Cooper Levesque socialize at JB Park in North Salem. Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo.

For the Puchir family, socialization for  Otis has also been the neighborly thing to do. The Puchir’s neighbors, the Stamp family, recently adopted Pepperoni, a Portuguese Water Dog, after an extensive search for a breeder who fit their values.

Pepperoni Stamp, who is always happy to meet new people and dogs. Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo.

“We were fortunate to get a puppy at the same time,” said Christiane Stamp, noting that Pepperoni and Otis get together every day. The two dogs also attend frequent playdates with other pups at Joe Bohrdrum Park in North Salem. Donna Ulrich, whose family welcomed Cletus, a Basset Hound, said puppy play dates have been one of the biggest pros of new dog ownership.

Cletus and Otis, together at a recent playdate. Photo courtesy of Donna Ulrich.


Many of the new dog owners in town are mindful that future travel won't be quite as easy with a dog's needs to consider. "There's a little less freedom to leave the house  because you've got the dog to think about," said Gervais-Puchir. Perhaps the next surge in demand will be for available dog walkers/sitter. When the pups in town are this cute, though, it shouldn't be an issue.

Kinsey and Meadow Levesque, with Cooper. Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo
Rocky Coughlan and Pepperoni Stamp greet the "pupperazzi." Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo
Liam Coughlan and Rocky. Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo
Rocky Coughlan and Pepperoni Stamp chase each other. Photo by Benjamin Allen, HudValley Photo
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