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The Furry Silver Lining

woman sitting with her beloved dog in the grass

I recently listened to a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic from my governor. Towards the end of the update, he was talking about little ways to stay positive and to find silver linings.  Silver Linings?  “What is he talking about?”, was my initial response. Kind of hard to find a silver lining these days with the pervasive bad news.

But then I realized he was really talking about hope. Part of the silver lining is the human spirit to rise in the face of adversity, to help others and to overcome. For example, in New York State, 76,000+ healthcare workers have volunteered to serve. They have marshalled the strength to overcome fear and pressed themselves back into service. Others with sewing skills are making masks to help protect those more susceptible and on the front lines. Neighbors more than ever are checking on neighbors, from a safe social distance, and shopping or getting medications for those who cannot get out or for those in a high-risk category. Simple acts of kindness that are sometimes all but forgotten in our normal daily lives. The human spirit is never more alive than when we are challenged and with that comes hope.

If you are reading this post, then it is likely you have your own silver lining and a furry one at that – your pet. Our silver lining is our enhanced relationship with our pets during this time of fear, anxiety and, for many, unemployment. Pets bring routine, stability, and interaction to our lives at a time when the routine, stability and interaction of work is no longer present. We never realize non-monetary benefits of work until they are gone. By comparison, we never realize the emotional benefits of our pets until we need it.

So, with May being National Pet Month, it’s the perfect time to revel in the silver lining. During this era of work at home or stay at home use the time you would have spent commuting to be with your pets. Positive human-animal interactions benefit our health and wellness. These interactions reduce blood pressure and heart rate by altering the levels of hormones associated with wellbeing including oxytocin, cortisol, beta-endorphin, prolactin, phenylacetic acid, and dopamine.1 Put simply, human-animal interactions are associated with physiological changes that benefit our bodies. No doubt your pets will enjoy the extra attention as well. It will also benefit their health too. Increased time and length of walks for dogs and playtimes for cats can lead to weight loss, if needed, increased emotional well-being and a possible reduction in unwanted behaviors.

So, take a step back, look for silver linings with your pets, your family, your neighbors, and in volunteerism. If we stick together, we will get through this together.