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Pets to the Rescue

Animal friends are a furry source of companionship during the COVID-19 pandemic; many dogs report a spike in daily walks.

Sceenshot of a Zoom call featuring therapy animals
A Zoom call just for kids: A pediatric animal therapy program connected with children recently through a video call with therapy animals.

Dogs, cats, birds and other animal pals are brightening stressful days and lightening the mood as millions continue to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These days, pet owners should consider spending extra time with their animals, Tufts University researcher Megan Mueller said recently. Research shows being with a pet reduces stress and anxiety and, for the elderly, companion animals help people deal with being isolated and alone, said Mueuller, co-director of the Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction.

In addition to being faithful friends, pets help people cope with chronic health conditions, studies have found. Owning a dog seemed to help cardiac patients get more exercise, a large Swedish study found. Researchers in Canada determined that pets can help people with chronic pain sleep better and establish a healthy bedtime routine.

So if you’re having more conversations than usual with the dog, don’t worry. It’s good for you and you’re not alone. In fact, there’s been so much human-pet interaction in some households that memes have popped up in social media featuring exhausted dogs. They’re worn out from going on too many walks with their bored owners.

The only animals not getting enough love right now are therapy animals based at hospitals and clinics. They’re not making the rounds or doing their usual therapy sessions. But several hospitals are finding creative ways to connect patients with these on-staff animals. A therapy pup named Tucker at Stanford Medical School has started doing virtual calls. Other hospitals have turned to Instagram to keep therapy animals in touch with all their fans. 

But the ADAPT program for Animal Assisted Therapy at Nemours Children’s Specialty Care in Jacksonville, Florida, takes the prize for harnessing technology. Nemours put the zoo in Zoom with a video call that brought together a parrot, a cat, two ponies and five dogs.

Watch the call.