You’ve Got a Friend

When you're down and troubled
 And you need a helping hand
 And nothing, nothing is going right 
Close your eyes and think of me
 And soon I will be there
 To brighten up even your darkest night*

Here we are, 5 months into the COVID 19 Pandemic Lockdown. It has been a rough haul and now, just as many places have begun to relax closure guidelines, those same places and more, are seeing cases spike yet again. It is enough to drive anyone into a spiral of depression.

Luckily for some of us, about 63 million according to the American Pet Products Association, have dogs to comfort us.

Dogs help us feel less isolated.

The threat of illness, the disruption of normal routines, and sudden changes in real-life social opportunities have all of us stressed out. In an effort to keep our calm, many of us turn to our companion animals. It has long been known that the simple act of petting a dog can notably lower blood pressure and heart rate.There’s even more to it than just enjoying the quiet moment. Research has shown interaction with a pet actually lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, accounts for higher levels of the neurotransmitter’s serotonin and dopamine which calm the brain, and help people feel less isolated. Heart attack patients with a dog at home have even been found to have a longer life expectancy than those without pets.

What is it about pets, and dogs in particular that we find so supportive? Researchers at Cummings School studying this phenomenon say, “Pets provide nonjudgmental emotional support,” and “contact with pets help reduce stress and anxiety, particularly when you are experiencing a stressful situation.”

One of the great things I have found about dogs, is that they give me an excuse to get out of my own head. When I am stressed or fixated on a problem, the simple act of taking my dog for a walk or playing a little fetch give me the chance to step away and often allows me a little perspective to attack the problem from a different angle.

Pixie, the therapy dog.

The comfort of dogs was being recognized even before the COVID pandemic began. It is more and more common to see dogs actually working in roles to comfort people in airports, for children in courts, and even in colleges during finals weeks. With much of the country locked down due to the current health scare, some people have even taken their pooches virtual, starting online therapy groups where those people suffering from things like anxiety can log on and interact with a pup for a while.

The need for furry facetime has helped many shelters and rescues empty the kennels as more people have jumped at opportunities to adopt or foster dogs while we’re all stuck at home.

So, how is your dog helping you cope with our strange new normal? Did you adopt or are you trying to adopt now and having trouble finding a dog? I would be happy to hear your experiences with how you and your best friend are handling the stress of lockdown.

Until next time, I will leave you with some important words that may not have been written by dogs, but surely reflect our relationship with them.

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running to see you again, oh baby, don't you know
Winter, spring, summer or fall
Hey now, all you have to do is call
And I'll be there, yes I will
You've got a friend
You've got a friend, yeah
Ain't it good to know you've got a friend
Ain't it good to know you've got a friend
Oh, ye yeah, you've got a friend*

So, stay healthy, support the resistance, and get out there and do something with your dog.

*”You’ve Got a Friend” Copyright 1971 Written by Carole King


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