By Claire H., Concordia Applied Journalism
If anyone feels grateful for the ongoing quarantine right now, it is surely the pets all around the world. The quarantine has confined us to the walls of our homes, but it has also granted us much more time to spend with our beloved pets.
I have spent many such afternoons over the past few months simply sitting on my couch, letting some TV show play on my laptop as I absentmindedly pet my dog. When there is nothing else to do and I’m feeling restless, I pick up his leash off the hook by the door and he immediately comes bounding.
“Quarantine has definitely affected the amount of time I spend with my pets since I am home so much more,” Iffany Z., a junior at Concordia, says. In fact, she claims that “one of my favorite parts about home based learning is keeping them company and vice versa.”
Henry K., an alumnus, agrees: “[quarantine] has made me realize how much I love him, and I will cherish him even more.”
However, pets are not the only ones benefitting from our increased presence in their lives. It is well-documented that pets can have a great positive impact on their owners’ mental health. The first research on pets and mental health was published 30 years ago, a study that was conducted by psychologist Alan Beck of Purdue University and psychiatrist Aaron Katcher of the University of Pennsylvania. They measured what happens to the body when a person pets a friendly dog, and found several of the following effects: blood pressure went down, heart rate slowed, breathing became more regular, and muscle tension relaxed.
Hayley S., a Concordia senior, similarly says that her cat is “very calming, lowers my stress, and makes me happier.”
Perhaps that is why animal-assisted therapy has been on a rapid rise in recent medical history. The very sensory act of stroking an animal has proven to be able to lower blood pressure, even in the case of unconventional subjects like turtles. Furthermore, pets make us feel needed on a very fundamental level. While taking care of a pet is a big responsibility, caring for another living thing is a healthy and wholesome way to give ourselves a sense of purpose and meaning.
For Janie W., a senior at Concordia, this especially rings personal. “I adopted [my dog] when I was still undergoing the process of adjusting anti-depressants,” she remembers, “so having a dog to take care of and be responsible for was a really rewarding experience. Like a mutualistic symbiotic relationship, where she found a new home and I got to feel accomplished in [providing her with one].”
Another frequently noted benefit by pet owners is that having an animal, particularly a dog, is great for staying active. It isn’t hard to imagine that the nature of quarantine has caused many people to simply sit around all day long, so having a pet in this situation essentially forces one to go outside or at least move around. “Since quarantine has started I’ve been walking him a lot more than I used to,” Evelyn S. muses. “It makes you get out of the house.”
Other times, the presence of an animal is simply fun. “At least 2 times a day, my cat will chase her own tail or be playing so hard with a toy she'll roll off the couch,” Hayley S. explains. “It is very cute,” she adds.
Quarantine has made pets a huge part of our everyday routine– but it’s important to remember that we have always been what makes up nearly their entire lives. “I now realize how bored they must feel when no one is home,” Iffany Z. observes, “I can’t imagine what they do for all the hours I’m at school.”
Pets bring us so many unseen benefits by simply existing. After all, observes Iffany Z., “they make [us] feel less alone.” It is hard not to feel grateful for our pets in this time of great challenge.
Claire H. is a student of Concordia Applied Journalism. She is also wild about her dog, Laifa.