Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most businesses accept those deemed essential are closed. Without essential workers, we would not be able to buy groceries, send or receive packages, or refill a prescription. In Tennessee, essential businesses are allowed to continue to operate in order to keep our communities safe. My Pet’s Animal Hospital is an essential business. We have kept our clinics open. Our team has continued to come in and take care of our clients and their pets. There is no question our pets are essential. They help us maintain our well being during a time of tremendous uncertainty and stress.
Pets improve our lives in a number of ways. They provide companionship, decrease social isolation, offer comfort and emotional support, reduce stress and anxiety, and lessen loneliness. During the last several weeks when we have been asked to stay at home and abide by the social distancing guidelines provided by our government and the Centers for Disease Control, our lives have been altered significantly. As a result of being quarantined in our homes, we are more isolated than ever. Most of us are working from home. We have little physical connection to anyone outside of our families if we are lucky enough to have a family with us during the lockdown. Most of our connections are remote. People who are completely isolated from others suffer from lack of touch. Due to increased anxiety and stress from the crisis, our mental wellbeing is impacted. Having a pet in our home helps to lessen the emotional impact of Covid-19.
When we have a pet, we benefit from their companionship. They help us in a number of ways in this time of increased isolation. Pets help us get outside for fresh air. They motivate us to engage in positive activities that are good for our mental well being. A pet increases the likelihood we are maintaining a routine. When we pet our dog or cat, there is a tactile component to this activity which is quite important and often overlooked during normal times. There is also the added benefit that our dog or cat is not impacted by social distancing. Nothing has really changed for them other than their human or humans are home a lot. Our dogs still experience uninhibited joy. Their presence encourages us to get outside to explore and get fresh air. They provide us with consistency. Our pets keep us active and they remind us that though life as we once knew it has been altered drastically, it still goes on.
There have been a number of truly wonderful stories coming out of this crisis. People are loaning their pets to neighbors who are entirely alone to help stave off loneliness due to isolation. There have been increases in the number of people who are fostering and adopting pets. PBS recently reported thousands of New Yorkers who are fostering pets after animal shelters posted pleas on social media for help in finding homes for pets amid the crisis. In return, those who have stepped up to foster pets have reported a sense of purpose. Many have shared how fostering a pet has helped them to cope with anxiety. The opportunity to foster has not only provided them with a reliable relationship it has helped to better manage their sense of isolation and loneliness.
Risa Weinstock, President of Animal Care Centers of New York City, shelters and finds homes for more than 25,000 animals annually. Her organization houses at least a few hundred animals at any given time. After putting a call for help for foster families over social media in anticipation of the coronavirus crisis, Ms. Weinstock reports the number of applications from those wishing to foster soared to 5000. As a result, her organization found temporary homes for 320 animals in the last month.
According to Philip Tedeschi, a social worker and Executive Director of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver, pets provide us with some of our most reliable relationships. Loneliness is a huge issue and according to Mr. Tedeschi, “Loneliness and isolation is the single most dangerous mental health condition that we treat in the United States. It’s about as dangerous as being a chronic cigarette smoker in terms of fatalities.” Mr. Tedeschi believes just seeing our pets relax help us to relax more. He says it helps our mental health by literally changing our physiology and emotions.