• Joseph F. Berenato

Pets helping to cope with the pandemic


Jaden Rovaggi poses with Remi. Remi first met the Rovaggi family at the end of January. (Courtesy Photo)

As people continue to adjust to life during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many area residents have been finding ways to cope through the help of a new pet.


For Andrea Rovaggi and her family, that help came in the form of Remi, a Cavapoo—a mix of Cavalier (a King Charles Springer spaniel) and mini-poodle.


“The pandemic made us begin thinking more about adopting a dog since we realized we were home more, our sons were getting older and acquiring more responsibility, and we have not been traveling nor have foreseeable travel plans so we could devote time to puppy training and getting her acclimated in our home. I believe pet ownership will be a real blessing to our children as so much in their world has changed. Playdates are rare, sports have been canceled, even schooling has been remote more than in-person, so adding Remi has already added a sweet element to a year where so much was lost,” Rovaggi said.


Rovaggi said that her sons, Julian and Jaden, had been “championing for a dog for some time now.”


“We were given Top 10 reason lists, and presentations, and they both seemed down after another Christmas passed and still no dog. Little did they know that we were speaking to breeders and searching for rescues, as dogs have been in high demand since the pandemic hit. Finally, we got confirmation in early January that there was a puppy available,” Rovaggi said.


Rovaggi said that Remi has been a good fit for her family, and is “super-sweet and pretty easy-going thus far, which is also typical for their breed.”


“They are hypoallergenic and fairly easy to train, with a social personality, all of which makes them a good family dog, especially for those welcoming a pet for the first time ... Remi’s name means ‘oarsman, or one who navigates unchartered waters.’ We believe she will certainly be a great comfort to help us better prepare for whatever challenges this new year may bring as well,” Rovaggi said.


Robin Gazzara holds her two cats, Hermie (left) and Matcha (right). (Courtesy Photo)

Rovaggi and her family aren’t alone. For Robin Gazzara, comfort came by way of a stray kitten.


“It was one month after my grandfather passed away from COVID, and I found a tiny kitten sitting on my front door step. She was less than a pound, couldn’t open her eyes and was extremely malnourished. I had to feed her through a syringe every three hours for about two weeks until she was able to eat by herself,” Gazzara said.


Gazzara said that a veterinarian put the age of the kitten—now named Matcha—at one month old.


“I like to think it was a sign from my grandfather to help get me through a tough time. Now she’s a happy, healthy and funny cat, living her best life,” Gazzara said.


Gazzara soon decided that Matcha needed a playmate.


“Three months ago I adopted her a friend named Hermie from the shelter. He is an orange polydactyl cat; he has seven claws on each paw. They’re inseparable ... The pandemic made me a cat lady,” Gazzara said.


Joe Berenato and Robin Ford pose with Omega. (Courtesy Photo)

Robin Ford and her fiancé, Joe Berenato, were also looking for a friend during the pandemic.

“We were originally looking for a chocolate lab. I went to different rescue sites. A couple had brought us a husky to do a meet-and-greet. We fell in love with him, but, sadly they called later and said they could not bear to put him up for adoption,” Ford said.


After being referred to a husky rescue, Ford and Berenato met Omega, a 3-year-old husky from Reading, Pa.


“She had a brother named Alpha. It seemed the people who had them thought huskies in Florida was a cool idea. She and her brother journeyed from Florida to Georgia to Logan then Reading, Pa. Homeless to Home Rescue brought her to us for a two-week sleepover. By day two, I had them send me the adoption papers,” Ford said.


Ford and Berenato officially adopted Omega on March 20, 2020.


“The reason we adopted her was to keep me company because I am always home and she is great company for me,” Ford said.


Ford said that they discovered that Omega and Alpha spent the first two years of their lives living in a wooden crate. Now, Omega is “intrigued and curious about all she sees.”


“She never saw snow. This year is her first snow ever and she loves it. Why wouldn’t she? She is a snow dog. She never saw a kitchen table. She jumped on it to stare out the window. Boy, did Joe love that. Her personality is amazing. She is curious, smart and loveable,” Ford said.


Samantha Hitman holds Mera. (Courtesy Photo)

When Samantha Hitman moved out of her parents’ home in August, she brought her cat Yosemite—affectionately known as “Yos”—with her, but soon decided that she would need to find Yosemite a friend.


“My parents had three other cats and Yos was really good pals with one of them. I felt like she might have been lonely and missed playing chase and stuff, so we started looking online for adoptable cats around her same age with a chill temperament since Yos is such an alpha and rules the house,” Hitman said.


Hitman said that she found Queen Anne—who is now known as Mera—featured on the Noah’s Ark Rescue Cats page.


“She and her three kittens were found in a chicken-wire cage being sold at a farmers’ auction. She was described as sweet as could be, very docile, loves making muffins, no issues with other cats—or dogs—not interested in toys and loves to cuddle. She is barely anything like her description. She doesn’t make muffins that often, she loves toys and thinks everything is a toy, including your hands. I am covered in scratches. Not really interested in cuddles. She is so noisy, absolutely ravenous, she’s such a hunter and begs for food constantly. She’s also super stinky,” Hitman said.


At first, Hitman said, Yosemite and Mera did not get along.


“Yos was on the offensive and Mera didn’t come out from under the couch or drink water for two days. We watched Jackson Galaxy (host of “My Cat from Hell”) videos for advice and then basically quarantined her in my room. We ordered a pet gate and got out an old baby gate to barricade her in my craft room. We slowly moved Yos’s food bowl a couple inches every meal until she was down through the dining room and up the stairs, comfortable eating with Mera right on the other side of the door. We did site swaps and monitored interactions for like two and a half months. Now we’re finally at a point where Mera can be free in the house with Yosemite,” Hitman said.


Despite the détente that exists between Yosemite and Mera, Hitman said, the latter is still something of “a scaredy-cat.”


“She hates loud noises and when we walk near her while wearing shoes. She’s a handful and a mess, but so cute and sweet it’s all worth it,” Hitman said.