Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder – How To Have A Long Distance Relationship With Your Pet

From facetime and Zoom calls, to audio messages and letters, this past year has seen many of us adopt new and novel ways of staying in touch with those we care about. Whether it be 5km or 5,000km, many of us have found ourselves in the type of long distance relationships people saw in films or TV series giving us a new found appreciation for the people in our lives. For others, this distance was not something brought on by a global pandemic and is in fact, a very normal part of their lives. With an estimated 650,000 foreign nationals living in Ireland, long distance relationships are part and parcel of life abroad. Many would assume long distance relationships usually involve a romantic partner, family members or even a close friend. I spoke to five women who for them, their long distance relationships are with someone so special to them, no conceivable distance in the universe would stop them from seeing them. They told me about these special individuals, how they keep in contact with them, and how their relationship with them compares to those with their friends and family.

Su and Alice, Turkey 

Her name is Alice and she is going to be 4 years old in August. I adopted her to be my roommate as I was living in an apartment by myself. I have always been in love with cats but Alice was different. It’s hard to explain but there is something about her. If there one million cats in the street like her I would recognise her instantly. Her looks, her eyes, how she moves etc. I have to admit that she sometimes annoys me as she wakes me up at 4am, 5am looking for her breakfast. She would wake me up by biting my feet or pat me on the face with her paw and I have to admit I always give her food when she wakes me up and she has gotten a little fat! My mum is not a big lover of pets in general but Alice loves attention from everyone so when she visited me Alice would always snuggle up next to her. She’s really affectionate.

At the moment she is staying with my boyfriend back in Turkey as I am studying here in Dublin. My boyfriend has another cat and in the beginning they didn’t get along that well. The other cat was always bothering Alice, wanting her attention but she just ignored him. Now they’re friends but it took a while. We facetime each other every day and my boyfriend’s sisters sends me videos and photos of her all the time. Yesterday she called me nut I couldn’t answer as I was in the supermarket and when I got home she had sent me a video of Alice touching the screen of her phone with her paw waiting for me to answer. We haven’t been able to talk on video for five days and my boyfriend’s sister thinks she is missing me a lot. 

Honestly I didn’t even think she would remember me but because we are so used to facetiming each other where I would play with her, call her names, she touches the screen, looks at me and if I didn’t talk to my parents for  days I wouldn’t feel as sad as I do when I can’t talk to Alice. She is my cat and she needs me to be there, to hear my voice, to know that I exist somewhere and for me it’s really important to maintain that connection because I love her so much. 

Lizeth and Baloo, Mexico

My dog’s name is Baloo and he is 4 years old. He is very playful and friendly but also very protective of me. He always knows when you’re feeling down or sick. I’m sure it’s common with other dogs but anytime I am feeling sad or down, he always comes to me, cuddles with me. Normally he doesn’t like being on the bed but when I am feeling like this he always gets on the bed with me and lies next to me. I love him and I miss him so much.

When I video call my mum, she always shows me Baloo, puts him on camera for me and I call him but sometimes I think he doesn’t hear me. He is a bit camera shy and when I took videos or pictures with him, he always turns his head, He is a bit of a diva! Nothing has changed so sometimes when my mum calls him to come to the camera he will turn his head. I always ask my mum to send me pictures or videos of him.

It is really different compared to keeping in contact with friends and family because you can communicate properly, share a conversation together and also they know the situation. They know why you are not there in person, why you are somewhere else. For Baloo, it’s impossible to know what he thinks so it is different. Since we can’t talk to each other it’s difficult to bridge that gap in the way that you can with a person. I miss him a lot and I’m so excited to see him again.

Amanda and Kindi, Brazil

Her name is Kindi and she is 9 years old. She has a great personality and she’s like my best friend. She follows me everywhere. We watch TV together, take naps, go to the park etc. My favourite thing to do with her was taking her to the dog park and watching her play with all the other dogs. She is like a best friend and she even helps me to socialise with more people. Before I got her I didn’t know any of my neighbours and now I have met them all because of her. She is a rescue dog and the vet who found her realised she had a lot of health problems and needed surgery. She discovered she had cancer in her stomach and this is where her name came from as it was like opening a Kinder Egg and discovering what was inside. She is much better now. She is a survivor.

I mainly get photos and videos almost every day. I used to get more but as time passes, I have been here for over 3 years, and now that I am working, studying etc, I don’t get as much as I don’t have the time but I get photos and videos at least once a week. Sometimes when I am video calling my mum I catch her and we talk on the phone but it doesn’t happen as often as I would like. I love seeing her so much. I love seeing her happy.

To be honest it feels the same. I believe that dogs know what’s going on, they see something familiar on the screen and I think she knows I am somewhere else, far away but I’m trying to say hello as much as possible. I don’t stay in touch as much with my family as I do with Kindi. She is my number one, my priority. I really miss her and my plan is to bring her to Ireland but the last year has been crazy so I’m not sure when it will be possible but my hope is that this summer I can bring her here.   

Suzie and Charlie, England

My dog’s name is Charlie and he is a cross between a border collie and a springer spaniel. Even though he is 7, he still acts like a puppy and he is very lively. He loves cuddles and is very attached to my parents. He gazes out the window when they go out waiting for them to come back no matter how long they are away for. His best friend was our cat Trixie and when she passed away he was really sad, he really suffered with it. He’s obsessed with his ball and loves playing outside with it.

I call my mum most Friday’s for a couple of hours to catch up and she will always call Charlie to come and be on the video call with us. When I call his name, he always runs to the front door so I don’t think he fully understands that I am on the phone and not there in person. If my Mum says, “look it’s Suzie!” he will run to the window or the front door. I try not to call his name too much as it distresses him but my mum always shows him on camera and she constantly sends me pictures of him. He has a friend, Bella, who is my mum’s friend’s dog, and when they go to the park together, I get bombarded with photos of them sitting in cute places. He is like a little model as he always poses in photos.

I have never really thought about how it compares to keeping in contact with my friends and family, but when I think about it now, it’s not too dissimilar at all. I miss having that in person connection with him, going for walks, cuddles etc but I have the same feelings about my family. I have been in Dublin for two years and before the pandemic I would see them every 6 weeks or so but I haven’t seen my family in person for over a year now. We definitely do a lot more to stay in touch, and like everyone last year we did Zoom quizzes etc and Charlie was always sitting there. He was as involved as anyone else and staying in touch with him is just as important for me as with any of my family or friends.        

Fabi and Chicharo, Mexico

His name is Chicharo and to be honest we don’t know how old he is as my mom rescued him from the street and we adopted him. He has an unusual personality. He doesn’t want to be the baby of the house but he is very spoiled so it’s hard to say that he isn’t the baby! He has two beds, one in the living room and another in my mom’s bedroom. He has his own little timetable and he knows exactly the time for breakfast, when to go to the park in the morning, in the evening. He’s the boss of the house. His favourite toy is his ball which I know isn’t very original! He is a tiny chihuahua and he always gets my mom to carry the ball for him when they go to the park. After he is finished playing he likes to sit and watch people going by. He’s is not the typical chihuahua that you see being carried in someone’s arms or there bag, he is very independent. He is very special for us as we were able to rescue him from the street and give him a better life.

Every time I video call my mum I see him. I ask my mum to show him, put him on camera and I call him by his name. He also gets very excited, wags his tail and then he runs to get his ball as he wants to play with me. I always ask my mum to take videos of him when she goes to the park or she just sends me videos when he is doing something funny at home.

It’s difficult as we can’t talk to them, but as soon as I see his tail wagging it makes me happy as I know he remembers me. With people we can expresses ourselves to them in different ways but with pets you really need that physical connection. I really miss not having a pet here in Dublin and especially my dogs as they are like children to us. We have had them since they were babies and they mean a lot to us.

We had two other dogs, Isabela and Torito, but they passed away. Isabela died while I was here in Dublin. She was the lady of the house and very independent. Torito passed away last year just after the start of the pandemic. He was only five years old but one day he died suddenly. We found out that he got sick from the chemicals they use to clean the parks. I can say that I am a big dog lover and I really miss not being able to be with them.

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