A while ago you wrote about a dog, Skipper, who was a great comfort to you as a lonely child back then. He wasn’t even your dog, belonging instead to your next-door neighbour. But he’d stay with you in your yard for an hour or more every day.
That raises my question: With all the negativity of the pandemic - isolation, loneliness, anxiety, financial worries and fear - does having an emotional attachment to a pet benefit a person more than it intrudes on peace of mind?
Considering the added responsibilities for care, feeding and physical health maintenance of a dog, cat, gerbil, etc., plus the expenses of a veterinarian’s care as needed, does adding these factors into an already stressful situation really work to a person’s benefit or create more problems?
Years later, when I was a mom with two kids, ages five and three, we got a puppy. Each child had a special relationship with Pepper. As for me, during an illness that required bedrest a couple of hours daily, I was joined each time by that furry companion as he snuggled on the blanket against my side.
He lived for 18 years, as did his successor, a redheaded (like me) smaller female dog, named Ruffles (my daughter’s choice). So yes, I understand and have experienced the emotional connection between humans and pets.
But trained researchers have also addressed that connection during major stress times. As I wrote, last April 25 in an Ask Ellie Toronto Star newsletter, “A September 2020 survey of UK residents, found owning a pet — whether it was a dog, cat, horse, farm animal or reptile — helped with the negative psychological effects of lockdowns.”
Moreover, “findings from this study also demonstrated potential links between people's mental health and the emotional bonds they form with their pets,” lead author Elena Ratschen said, according to the University of York website.
However, research by a US team (a sociologist, occupational therapist and a social worker) has found mixed results for older adults.
According to the website for “Frontiers in Public Health,” April 9, 2021, the current study, which looked at people over 65 concluded:
“Pets played a unique role for older adults during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Pets were both a comfort and source of companionship and support, while also a source of stress and worry.”
The study suggests that older adults with pets may benefit from special assistance during public health emergencies. Also, that families, friends, and communities may provide assistance with safely procuring pet supplies and food, support for pets with behavioural issues, or making arrangements for contingency care in the event of owner illness.
Simply put, pets can be a great boon. Certainly, throughout lockdowns, a wide age range of people have regularly gone outside to walk dogs, letting them run free, where allowed in dog parks. Both owners and pets sought the exercise and outside air, with an acceptable reason to get a break from staying home.
Meanwhile, my close friend who’s not yet middle-aged and a long-time cat lover, has been tending day and night to a sick cat whose been her full-time companion throughout Covid. She’s devoted, unable to work, heartsick at what may result.
Therein lies the answer to your question: A deep emotional connection between living beings and pets, will eventually involve loss. For most of us the long period of rewards are worth the stab of emotional pain that eventually heals.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the issue of caste affecting loving relationships (June18/May28):
“I’m an older Canadian who had a 10-year program in Bangladesh, a very poor Muslim country. I trained a bunch of young science guys. Four of my guys got married in the Muslim tradition.
“Their moms or sisters would search their village and others for compatible families with eligible daughters. If the families get along, they introduce the kids. If the kids like each other they might connect. If not, the moms keep looking.
“What’s reported in Canada about such unions are the worst abuses, forced marriages, etc. But mostly it’s not like that.
“My guys are happy with the system and their wives and now have a few little kids. I attended a couple of the weddings, and they’re really colourful. Great food, no booze.
“Compare that with our system of who’s still standing at closing time.”
Ellie - Meaning, perhaps, who’s divorced here as well as drunk.
Tip of the day:
A devoted pet is worth your time and loving care.