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Companionship During Pandemic

June 1, 2020

Pets have the unwavering ability to show loyalty and unconditional love to their people; a paw resting on your arm, a nuzzle against your neck, and the deep, soulful gaze they offer. Anyone with a pet, any type of pet, can probably tell you endless stories about how their animal cheers them up and makes them feel less alone in the world. And these days, that’s saying a lot.

In this era of self-quarantine, our pets have become invaluable companions, especially to people living alone.

Philip Tedeschi, a social worker and executive director at the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver, considers the human-animal bond “some of the most reliable relationships we have, and in this time while we’re required to be distant from one another, (pets are) playing a particularly relevant role in helping us manage isolation and loneliness.”

It’s not surprising that animals offer this comfort. Therapy pets and emotional support pets have been part of our culture for years now. They help us navigate through mental health issues, grief and depression. Researchers have proven that people with pets laugh more, usually in response to the animal’s antics. Stress relievers? Yes, pets earn that title as well. One study of cardiovascular reactivity to stress showed that people with pets had significantly lower resting baseline heart rates and blood pressure.

Even watching our pets sleep is good for us. Seeing another living being that’s able to relax enables us to relax a bit, too. It literally changes our physiology and our emotions. Another bonus is that petting our animals helps fulfill the basic human need for touch. When we’re stressed or saddened, hugging our pets can soothe us instantly.

In the early days of the pandemic, many news stories suggested that people who found themselves at home fulltime should contact their local animal shelter and offer to foster an animal. In no time Dakin’s phones were ringing, our social media sites had lots of messages, and emails were pouring in. So many great people offered to help. We were very grateful for our community’s commitment to the animals, and their desire to experience the joy of pet companionship while remaining at home, but at that time we had more foster caregivers than animals.

COVID-19 hasn’t stopped people from adopting, either. Since March 16 we have only been able to accept pets through emergency surrenders (examples being people who are sick, homeless, or financially challenged and can’t care for their pet). As we continue to focus on emergency surrenders, our animal population is lower than normal, but more than 275 animals have found new homes to brighten during this time period.

For people who have been facing economic hardships and are struggling to feed their pets, Dakin’s Pet Food Aid Program has been there to keep families together while that human-animal bond grows increasingly importantduring these days of isolation. From mid-April to mid-May, we shared over 30,000 pounds of pet food with human health service organizations, other animal shelters, Animal Control Officers, and the general public. Prior to that, at the start of the pandemic, we were averaging 1,000-2,000 pounds of food being picked up daily by people who needed help feeding their pets. Thanks to all of you who show your love of animals by supporting this community program.

Dakin doesn’t exist just to take in surrendered pets, welcome Dixie Dogs (and cats) from southern shelters, or save at-risk kittens. We exist so that people can experience and keep that amazing human-animal bond. Helping animals and people is a value deeply rooted in our mission and is the reason why many of Dakin’s programs and services exist. We envision a world where services that support the human-animal bond are accessible to all, and companion animals are no longer vulnerable.Lee Chambers is media and public relations manager of the Dakin Humane Society. Dakin delivers effective, innovative services to animals in need and the people who care about them.

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