Amid Moscow lockdown, some dogs find new homes and friends

204-26.jpegVvolunteer Nadezhda Minyaeva, wearing a face mask and gloves to protect from coronavirus, takes Russian pensioner Margarita Donchenko's dog Sopha for a walk in a courtyard outside the apartment building in Moscow, Russia, April 27, 2020.  (Photo: AP)

Stuck at home during Moscow’s coronavirus lockdown, Alexandra Novatova opted to use a delivery service — a big decision, because she was ordering more than a pizza or a shipment of toilet paper.

She got a dog brought to her door.

She chose the mutt, a shepherd mix with a scythe-like curved tail, from a 12-hour online broadcast. Animal shelter volunteers showed dogs and cats to try to match them with humans.

The lockdown, which will extend at least through May 12, has been hard on dogs in some ways — their daily walks are supposed to go no farther than 100 meters from home, and owners 65 years and older are told to stay indoors except for buying groceries and medication. But it also has some bright spots.

People in isolation, looking for animal companionship, are adopting dogs. And many dogs are making new friends, as volunteers walk the pets of elderly people.

“People are spending a lot of time at home during the pandemic. I realized that people now have more free time, they can adopt pets without taking a vacation or arranging extra days off,” said Anastasia Medvedeva, one of the organizers of the online adoption initiative “Happiness Delivered At Home.”

“Because when you adopt a pet, you need a certain amount of time for it to become accustomed to its new environment. Now it’s a perfect time to adopt a cat or a dog,” she said.

Medvedeva said her project tries to ensure that the animals aren’t adopted just as a temporary salve to the tedium and loneliness of lockdown.

“We have quite experienced curators. ... They conduct rigorous interviews. We naturally ask: Do you understand what will happen next?” she said.

That issue was on Novatova’s mind, too.

“The first thing I did was ask myself whether I’m doing this for the time of the pandemic or for life, whether I’ll be able to sit at home with a dog without the ability to take walks outside and get it used to the current situation. I decided that I’m ready for this,” she said outside her apartment, after the dog was delivered.

Pensioner Margarita Donchenko knows how much attention a dog needs. And she’s glad when volunteer Nadezhda Minyaeva shows up once a day to give her fluffy little black-and-white pooch a walk.

“I saw right away that the dog is crazy about her. As soon as she wakes up, she runs to the door and waits for the doorbell to ring. She waits by her leash for Nadya to come,” she said.

“I tell her that Nadya will come soon and she replies with a woof-woof’.’”