Pets of iso: The unsung heroes of lockdown.

There’s been such a strong focus over the last few months of the importance of family and friendship, how important it is to be there for each other and the significance of belonging and support when times get tough. Now, it’s time to shine the spotlight on the true unsung heroes of isolation, our beloved pets.

Anyone who has ever owned or lived with a pet will probably tell you that pets have a way of connecting with us on a level most humans can’t. Whether their love is as forceful as a Labrador or as subtle as a hamster, there’s no denying they can make a huge impact on our lives.

I asked some local Aussie musicians about their lockdown experience with their pets and how they played a role in maintaining sanity.

WARNING! MAJOR CUTENESS AHEAD

Nick Sjogren – Thornhill

My family adopted Houdini from the Cat Protection Society in mid-2006 after not having had a cat for a few years. When we went to visit the shelter, the cages the cats were in were slightly raised off the ground. As soon as the door to his cage opened, he shot out and went straight underneath to hide. We instantly decided he was the cat for us and that’s also how he got his name.
The next year, mum looked online to find Houdini a companion because she wanted my brother and me to have the experience of having a tiny kitten. She found someone giving away a litter and so we got Basil at 7 weeks old. At first, they hated each other, but now they merely tolerate each other, so I’d say it’s a success story.

What have you been up to together during isolation? How has having a pet gotten you through this time?

Our daily routine is based around Houdini constantly yelling for food or trying to steal Basil’s food, and Basil trying to stay outside as long as he possibly can. Having them around as a constant source of company and comfort has been wonderful for mine and my family’s mental health. Basil purrs as soon as you look at him and loves pats, and Houdini is always around and so easy to cuddle. They’re the cutest, dumbest, loveliest pets I’ve ever had.

Listen to the new, instrumental version of Thornhill’s debut album The Dark Pool

Sam Thomas – PRETTY BLEAK

My girlfriend Aimee and I got him back in 2018 from a bird rescue in the eastern suburbs. We don’t know whether he was born in captivity or not but his sob story is that he was dumped out the front of a vet in a shoebox as a baby. He went through a couple of different owners before he got to us but he’ll be with us for life.

What have you been up to together during isolation? How has having a pet gotten you through this time?

He spends the majority of the time with Aimee but I have had him for a decent amount of time during lockdown. Lorikeets have a really amazing spectrum of sounds they can make and its actually a pretty interesting point of inspiration as a musician. Birds are so musically inclined, at least in a primitive sense, and I’ve recorded Louie singing with a mic in the middle of the room a few times. With the band, we make a lot of ambient soundscapes and shoegaze pieces for our live shows and EP’s, as well as using them to serve as a backbone for our more pop-esque songs in a compositional sense, and I’ve featured Louie’s noises in our production every now and then for some interesting textures and obscure sound effects. I guess it’s kind of niche to say you can credit a wild animal as a performer on some of your recordings.

Listen to PRETTY BLEAK’s latest single allusion to the only recurring dream i ever have

Cori & Paige – SULT

Cori: I wanted a big dog and found someone in Orange who had a pregnant Saint Bernard. She put me on a waiting list for a puppy and I messaged her every day throughout her dog’s pregnancy to check up on her. She would send me ultrasound photos and photos of her pregnant dog until one day the puppies arrived. 8 weeks later I drove to Orange and picked up Will. He was one of 11 pups in the litter and I fell in love with him instantly. Now we’re inseparable and he never leaves my side.

Paige: I bought Maverick the cat in 2015 as a birthday present. He was pretty young and I bottle fed him formula. He’s very clingy now and sleeps with me every night. Bear was Nick’s (Paige’s partner) dog when we met and I fell in love with Bear well before I fell in love with Nick. He’s a sweet angel baby and is the goodest boy. Cynthia we just got last year in November and I have always wanted a Pekingese. I got her flown from Queensland and she is the sassiest queen ever, she rules the house for such a tiny dog. My fish Bert is my favourite because he follows me around the tank and I can just tell he loves me.

What have you been up to together during isolation? How has having a pet gotten you through this time?

As twins, we can’t help but spend most of our time together but also love each other’s animals. We’ve spent most of our isolation cuddling up watching movies, hanging by the fire and writing music as a giant animal family, even the cat Maverick cuddles up with the poochies. We enjoy our daily walkies together.

Throughout isolation we have spent much of our time making demos of new songs, organising gigs and the future of the band. We also released our latest single ‘Gaslight’ during isolation and we are very keen to tour when venues are back open for gigs! We’ve also just made some cool looking SULT t-shirts which we’re keen to see our friends wearing out and about.

Listen to SULT’s debut single Gaslight

Larni Pearce – Creature Fear

Pez the 3-and-a-half-year-old Netherland Dwarf Bunny and Chandler the 1-year-old Netherland Cross.

I’ve had Pez for a few years now and adopted Chandler late last year so Pez could have a friend when I wasn’t home. I got Pez off a friend after going to a birthday party, they had a rabbit there. On the way home I was saying how I really want a rabbit and my friend said she had to get rid of hers because of her cat and that I could have hers!

What have you been up to together during isolation? How has having a pet gotten you through this time?

I’ve been spending some time outside with my buns and introducing them to my roomies pupper. They’re doing really well! Pez is chill because she’s lived with dogs before but Chandler is still getting used to it. 

I’m still working so I haven’t felt too isolated but I was quite stressed at the beginning of the pandemic because I work in aged care and was just so worried about infecting anyone at work. It was nice coming home to my buns to cheer me up at the end of the day.

Listen to Creature Fear’s latest single Barely Alive. New music TBA.

Lashes

I originally adopted Dillon when he was one year of age, he was rescued from a hoarders’ home full of cats and seemed to have not had any human contact. He was tremendously scared of everyone and everything. He’d even hide if the phone rang, but now he’s the most affectionate, snuggly cat and never leaves my side!

He’s the best sleeping buddy.

What have you been up to together during isolation? How has having a pet gotten you through this time?

I didn’t adopt Dillon in lockdown, but I was separated from him in lockdown. He stayed at my house with my housemates and I went to my parents so we spent weeks apart. My housemate would do frequent FaceTime calls with me so I could see Dillon and I thought about him often. 

Listen to Lashes’ debut single Treason

Shahrae

Nala the 3-year-old Labrador

I adopted Nala after deciding that I wanted a dog. I did all the research during school at the time, sitting in the library and looking up everything. I went to my mum after school to try to convince her to let me adopt a dog. Very soon after, Nala was looking for a home. Her previous family was working way too much to give her their full attention, so that day I got to pick her up and fell in love immediately.

What have you been up to together during isolation? How has having a pet gotten you through this time?

Over iso, Nala has been the best pup ever. I think she has actually enjoyed all the extra attention and having me home 24/7. She gets to go down the road to the park every now and then for our essential exercise as well as movie sessions and cuddle times constantly, she also loves the extra treats.

I have been writing heaps, making new music and ideas over this crazy time.

Listen to Shahrae’s latest single Shadow

Dylan Frost – Marvell

Cosmo the 5-year-old Border Collie.

Cosmo was bought by my parents as an amateur service-dog for my sister who has struggled with depression for a few years now. He wasn’t trained as a service dog but has since learned to recognise symptoms and responds in a calming way, such as “hugging” and just generally hanging out.

What have you been up to together during isolation? How has having a pet gotten you through this time?

During isolation, we were only allowed out of the house for work, fitness or essentials in NSW, so Cosmo would accompany me on walks and to the shops. Pets have a way of making you feel less alone or panicked, especially ones as in-tune with emotions as Cosmo.

Check out Marvell’s latest single 19 Holmes

RAHAB

Mrs Where’s Ya Pants 1 and Mrs Where’s Ya Pants 2 the Bantam chickens (granted, difficult to photograph)

My housemates and I adopted the chickens after finding out their previous owners could no longer look after them. One of my housemates had a chicken hutch so we thought why not! Where’s Ya Pants 1 & 2 (AKA The Bronte sister’s) follow each other everywhere! I’ve never met a stranger pair, one minute they’ll be quietly pecking, next minute they let off a giant squeal and dart across the yard.

What have you been up to together during isolation? How has having a pet gotten you through this time?

This isolation the sisters, as per usual, try their best to avoid all humans! Unless human has food, then they’ll peck out of your hand or try and steal your lunch. The chickens bring so much life to our yard, and I admit they sure make things more entertaining! I could literally sit in the yard all day and watch the chickens randomly squeal sprint and do their weird claw scrape with a quick transition to head-down-in-the-dirt. Sometimes I’ll get in the yard and do some vocal work or play some guitar and if I’m lucky they’ll come and jump up on the seat next to me; kind of like a cats temperament but even less affectionate, and they don’t wave their butts in your face.

RAHAB’s debut release TBA

If you enjoyed this article, please consider following and supporting all the wonderful artists who contributed their stories to this piece.

Thornhill / PRETTY BLEAK / SULT / Creature Fear / Lashes / Marvell / Shahrae / RAHAB

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