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The pandemic has upended our daily routines, from forcing adults to work from home to subjecting an entire generation of kids to distance learning.
And that’s just humans.
How pets are faring in the hideously termed “new normal” is the question that has inspired a new children’s book, called “When Will They Leave?,” out now. Written by Manhattan-based financier and author Lindsay Rechler and her mother, Debbie Kronengold, the warm-and-fuzzy picture book is a tribute to Norman, a 15-year-old cockapoo who has been the beloved family pet since he was a puppy.
“We found ourselves speculating about Norman’s thoughts on the whole situation,” Rechler, 35, told The Post.
“Whether it’s a dog, cat, bird or any other type of animal, nobody is giving them a voice,” she said. “So we decided to take Norman’s experiences and try and make them relatable to others.”
“When Will They Leave?” is told from the perspective of a people-pleasing pooch who can’t fathom the 24/7 presence of his family stuck at home. As much as he relishes their company and enjoys the constant belly rubs, he wonders when the household might return to its regular existence.
After all, the faithful hound wants to eventually resume his normal habits, too — which include snoozing alone on the sofa and barking with wild abandon at the mailman.
Rechler’s hoping the story will echo the success of “Good Morning Zoom,” her 2020, pandemic-era spoof of Margaret Wise Brown’s 1947 classic “Goodnight Moon.” The parody describes the shift towards virtual classes and the obliteration of the traditional office commute. Rechler donated proceeds to COVID-19 relief charities.
For this book, she had the fun of working with her mom, a 64-year-old retired teacher who lives with Norman and her husband, Ron, in Jericho, Long Island.
Rechler and Kronengold created their project over FaceTime in the fall, when the number of coronavirus cases began to rise again. They had been getting together in person over the summer — new cases had dropped and restrictions eased — but they distanced again as the weather got colder. Writing the book was a nice way for Kronengold to stay connected with her daughter and two grandchildren, Jack, 4, and Kenzie, 3, who live on the Upper East Side.
Their ideas flowed relatively easily, as the duo had already been paying attention to the ways that Norman’s behaviors had changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For one thing, he was getting a lot less sleep. “I wouldn’t say he was lazy [before the pandemic],” Rechler said, “but he tended to nap [a lot].”
Now, the pooch is stimulated by the constant presence of people. With Kronengold stuck at home, “he would sit on her lap almost constantly, sleep in her bed and photobomb video calls with the kids,” Rechler said.
But even that’s been a calming change from Norman’s existence over the summer. With tots Jack and Kenzie visiting frequently at the time, he got his exercise by way of spirited chases.
Other activities with the kids were decidedly less dignified.
They loved including him in their games of dress up, draping him in a crown, a pink princess dress or a blue and orange New York Islanders jersey.
As Rechler pointed out, it’s no coincidence a few illustrations in the book by artist Sofie Engström von Alten show the narrator – a Norman lookalike with a slightly bemused expression on his face — gussied up in a fetching frill-collared clown costume.
“By the end of their visits, Norman was actually very excited for my kids to go home,” she recalled. “I’m sure he kept asking himself: ‘When will they leave?’”
The book is a celebration of furry friends everywhere; Rechler has pledged the net profits to NYC animal charity Muddy Paws Rescue.
“Pets like Norman have provided non-stop entertainment and comfort during these challenging times,” said Rechler. “They might wonder when we’ll leave, but it will be a hard transition for both them and us when we finally do.”
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