Lockdown Tips #4

I’m so lucky to have such a talented pool of friends and Pearlers … Following on from Tony, Jeff and Phil now share their advice on getting through lockdown. Absolutely brilliant. THANK YOU! 😊

What a pet can do for you by Jeff

I’d like to show you the benefits of living with a pet, whether you’re in lockdown or not.

I’m a single pensioner in my 60s, and I absolutely LOVE dogs! (sorry, cat people). You really couldn’t ask for a better companion in this awful time of COVID lockdown.

Dogs love you unconditionally: you’re their life, and they are yours. They just want to be with you. Apart from their obvious gestures of love towards you, just look into your dog’s eyes their love for you is obvious, and they recognise your love for them in return. It becomes a privilege to care for this most loving and loyal creature. Make the most of this precious gift! To me they are family – period.

Rosie’s last months on her pram
My Rosie as she was – snug on her bed

But alas, dogs don’t live as long as us. Seven months ago, my beloved Shih Tzu, Rosie, had to be put down due to cancer after 12 years of us bonding together. We had the most perfect 12 years – she chose me at the pound, not the other way around. I was blessed to have her in my life. Rosie was initially given a month to live, but my love and care and the doggie pram I pushed her around in, extended her life by 2 years and a month. The cancer then got worse, and I had to do the right thing (by her, not me) to have her put down.

My grief was and still is overwhelming. I’ve felt a loss of purpose in life and felt more alone. I no longer have a loving companion, no snoring in my room at night, no Rosie chasing her teddies or sitting happily at my feet. And now the COVID lockdown has reared its ugly head.

The loss is such that for my own health and wellbeing, I need another dog-companion. I know my Rosie, whose presence I feel, wouldn’t want her Daddy suffering like this. With so much love left within, I really need to love a new companion! 

Before the lockdown, I tried every pound and animal rescue place imaginable, both up and down the coast and out west to Dubbo – but to no avail. I was exhausted just trying … filling out application forms in case there was a suitable dog for adoption – only to be then told I was No. 30 in line. 

I blame it all on the 2020 lockdown. There are now absolutely no small dogs available. I was told the cost for a Shih Tzu, poodle or Cavalier Spaniel puppy can be as high as $5000 and even $6500, which I simply can’t afford. Whilst I know my problem is minor compared to the toll of lockdown on others and the horrible loss of life, in my own sphere, it isn’t. I’m simply not travelling well at present.

Pet insurance?

Adopting a rescue dog or puppy may also mean getting pet insurance – as your dog may have or develop future health issues. 

Pet cover? Think twice

My Shih Tzu Rosie was a rescue dog, and within 3 weeks of adopting her, she needed intestinal surgery due to maltreatment from her previous owners (including feeding her the wrong food). It cost $3K, but I paid $2K with insurance. No pet insurance company offers 100% coverage. Over the years, Rosie developed more health problems (eg. a kidney issue which cost $4K but $2.5K with insurance). But by then my faith in pet insurance began to wane.

When Rosie turned 10, my insurance premium rose from $90 to $130 a month! But because she was insured earlier, she was still covered for existing ailments. You can’t get insurance if your dog turns 10 without previous cover. Some conditions are excluded, and the disclosure statement is often not very clear in this regard. For example, teeth are not included, and there are yearly limits on some procedures depending on your level of insurance. Most insurers offer 80%, 70% or only 50% coverage. I thought my insurance would help when Rosie was diagnosed with cancer, but NO. Most of her new ailments were not covered; not once in the 2 years of her cancer did I actually use my insurance. I decided to cancel it, save money and self-fund her care. And it made a huge difference. 

Some clinics such as ‘Greencross Vets’ in Sydney offer their own pet plans, which I took up; I kept that going until her death. The $16 monthly plan gave free vet visits, saving about $80 a visit. Vaccinations were free, with formal appointments rather than lengthy walk-ins.

Overall, I think insurance can be important early on, but a total waste of money after that. You’re far better putting money aside to fund your pet’s healthcare. Insurance doesn’t offer value for money. Rosie meant everything to me and wanted for nothing – and I felt no guilt cancelling her insurance. We love our dogs, but in reality have to consider what we can actually afford.

So for those of us who are alone and lucky enough to have a canine, feline or bird companion, I wish you all well. To those of us who don’t, hang in there and keep trying to find one, as I will be. In the meantime, it won’t be easy – but I know the memories of our lost loves will tie us through!

Musings during lockdown … by Phil

“Not enough time” in a lockdown day to do what you want to do? Really?!

Paradoxically in this day and age, a lockdown is both restricting AND emancipating:  restricting in that it may stop us doing our ‘usual’, but emancipating in freeing time we didn’t  have before. We can experience new things, eg. the effect of Shirl’s Pearls on the body, mind and financial health!  Even before we get out of bed in the morning, there’s that damn internet. But if we use it and not let it use us, there are endless treasures to discover. We can immediately ‘visit’ friends and family – whether they’re next door or on the other side of the world. It may not be hugging the flesh, but it’s pretty damn good with as many or more laughs!

Someone close to me said, “We can now carry the Library of Alexandria in our pocket!” We can learn about anything we’re interested in – think TED Talks, YouTube, Wikipedia, and so many relevant sites by just googling a word. And of course, there’s MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which every major world university offers free to all – an amazing range of amazing subjects easily accessed online. I’m currently halfway through a Uni of Tasmania Wicking Institute MOOC on dementia, brilliantly structured and presented. At the end of a module, you will have really learned and gained new knowledge. 

So many other paths to wander in … cooking, new adventures in the kitchen … and what could be more fun than learning a dance on YouTube like the Salsa? Research suggests dance could be premium training for body and mind coordination to carve new paths into that ol’ plastic brain …  Or what about that other language we’ve wanted to learn? Do it online. That musical instrument you’ve thought about picking up, or one that’s gathering dust? An easy YouTube lesson may be the first and most difficult you take. 

One way into Zen

Exercise? Again, YouTube has endless at-home workouts you can do in the sitting room or yard. We can still venture out for a walk, a jog, a boot camp in the park for 2, and even fishing (you’ll need a licence). And who cares if we don’t catch a fish at all? It’s going somewhere beautiful … and more Zen.

Now let’s get a little more serious. Almost none of us had experienced or even imagined a pandemic or its impact. Lots of folk have been hit hard. Displaced younger working kids who until now could take work, income and affordability for granted. Mental health issues exacerbated by isolation and suspension of face-to-face counselling; deepening of loneliness; many suffering increased financial pressures; greater risk and opportunity for  domestic violence often fuelled by an increase in alcohol and drug abuse; gambling losses becoming even more facile from home with the onslaught of outrageous TV advertising campaigns; and a spike in thoughts of suicide by troubled folk (though hopefully there’ll be less actual suicides if available supports are accessed).  

And this brings us to what may be the most fulfilling and gratifying of all endeavours at this time: giving some help and support to those in need if you have some time. Volunteering opportunities are available through churches, synagogues, mosques, other spiritual communities, charities like the Salvo’s or St Vincent’s de Paul, and local community centres.

As a Lifeline telephone crisis responder, I hear people’s issues first-hand. Lifeline trains its volunteers to connect with people seeking some comfort and relief from the crisis they feel overwhelmed by, and to collaboratively assist them in finding a way out. The demand for its services has surged to unprecedented levels. 

I’m also a First-Aider with St John Ambulance, and have been with St John’s and Lifeline for over 10 years. I certainly plan to continue while mentally and physically able to. St John’s now trains on Zoom, but City-to-Surf, Oxfam Walk, music fests and local sports activities have been suspended.  

I believe the truly wonderful and gratifying aspect of our society is our willingness to volunteer our time to help others such as the RFS, SES, Blaze-Aid, CWAs, and numerous other organisations. Of course, there must be a sensible balance and we mustn’t forget our own wellbeing, health and enjoyment. If we’re no good to ourselves, we’re no good to anyone else. If that’s a cliché, it’s for good reason!

So, is there enough time in a lockdown day to do what you want to do? The answer is probably “NO” – but there’s certainly time to do some new, truly amazing, compassionate, and inspiring activities that can make us better, wiser, healthier and more interesting!

Last words from Shirl … 

Sadly this year, I’m hearing much more of “I’m feeling flat”; “I can’t get motivated’’; “I usually love walking but now it’s a chore”; “I hate my hair” (me too!); “When will this end?”; and “I’m totally over everything Zoom!” … than I did during last year’s lockdown. It’s understandable, we’re all human. We need to talk and connect – and our computers may no longer be a welcome diversion. 

When I feel despondent, I walk. To relax, I read … newspapers in particular. Those in Sydney like the SMH, Australian, AFR and Daily Telegraph offer attractive discounts for 12-week subscriptions (for digital access, home or newsagent delivery). Reading the papers indoors or outdoors with a cup of tea or coffee (or an apple!) is heaven. No ads, no clumsy clicks that open yet another unwanted website. Try it!

Share your thoughts on our Let’s Talk! page

One thought on “Lockdown Tips #4

  1. Efrem Manassey

    Brilliant current blog, Shirl.

    Jeff is very sincere and I can say, after knowing him for some decades now – he is one of those gifted, nurturing males who are a blessing to society. He took perfect care of his little dog Rosie until she breathed her last.

    The other guys who share their knowledge and experience in this ‘Pearlage’ are tremendous too. And I concur with Phil that compassionate assistance to our fellows and the joy of volunteering is the way to go!

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