Written by: Coach Kelley
Phew, we made it to February! Anyone else feel like January was a long year and 2020 was a millennium? I cannot imagine navigating this past year without my rescue dog, CC. On any given day she raced through my Zoom practices, reminded me to get outside for some exercise, or just snuggled up to me when I felt down. During the pandemic it’s never been more apparent that our pets are a source of comfort and joy.
CC was adopted in 2012 from Animal Haven, a shelter in NYC. There’s a popular saying in the rescue world, “Who rescued who?” In 2020, animal shelters across the country were pleasantly surprised when a record number of people showed up to foster or adopt a pet. Even the White House is getting in on the action when Major Biden became the first shelter dog to move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. After Major was adopted from the Delaware Humane Society in 2018, the message to “adopt don’t shop” was loud and clear.
It turns out your new pet might be rescuing you just as much as you’re rescuing them. According to the CDC, along with the enjoyment they provide, pets offer a variety of health benefits, including:
Keeping Us Healthy:
Studies show that spending time with pets can lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Pets provide a soothing presence by offering unconditional love and companionship. Guess what? They don’t care if you stay in your pajamas all day! In fact, simply talking to your pet can provide a calming experience. My dog CC definitely picks up on my emotions and is ready with tail wags and kisses at the first sign of stress or sadness. Many people find pets help reduce anxiety and depression, offering hope during an otherwise trying time.
Showing Us Love:
Pets provide us with some much-needed touch. At a time when hugs between humans are frowned upon, your pet is more than happy to pick up the slack. The healing power of touch is undisputed. Hugging floods our bodies with oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress while lowering blood pressure and heart rates. So, it’s not surprising that petting a dog or cat can lower your heart rate and blood
pressure while boosting levels of serotonin and dopamine.
Caring for a pet can help us alter our behavior. It’s hard to remain sad, angry, frustrated, or annoyed when staring into the eyes of your furry best friend. The simple act of your pet needing attention can help you refocus your thoughts and energy, thus altering your behavior. It’s a win for both of you!
Making Us Laugh:
Animals are also natural comedians who are more than happy to provide some much-needed distraction from our daily stressors. They live in the moment and take us out of our needs and into theirs, which typically center around food, water, affection, exercise, and playtime. I can’t even count the number of animal-centric social media accounts I am currently following. The animals are the real stars of 2020!
Getting Us Out Of Bed:
Having a pet requires great responsibility and responsibility promotes mental health. It reinforces to us that we can care for another living creature and that helps bring structure to our lives. Dogs require a consistent schedule and don’t care if you had a late night. They still need to be walked and cats demand breakfast at the crack of dawn. Just try sleeping late and you’ll find a cold, wet nose in your face ready to take on the world. C’mon human, the squirrels aren’t going to chase themselves!
Keeping Us Active:
Pets also make fantastic exercise buddies. CC loves running alongside the bike, box jumping on the stone benches and pretty much chasing after anything small and furry in our local park. Your dog wants to hang out with you all the time, so why not put on your sneakers and head outside.
If you’ve been feeling down, consider heading to your local shelter to foster or adopt your new best friend. You won’t be sorry!