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Ohio University student Lauren McCain finds solace in the company of Fiona, a new companion McCain adopted in the early quarantine stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pets provide owners with emotional support during pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, quarantining and social distancing is the norm in many places across the globe. As people spend more time alone and at home, many are becoming increasingly dependent on their pets as a source of joy.

Cara Tee, a senior studying Spanish and Spanish education, depends on her cat, Luca, for emotional support when anxious. Tee has had Luca for a year-and-a-half. Her cat is able to tell when she’s anxious, she said. 

“(Luca being there for me) helped lessen a lot of the anxiety that I would feel and made it significantly more manageable,” Tee said in an email. “I think that COVID helped us become more aware of each other's needs. He notices a lot more when I'm in a bad mood and need comforting, and I notice a lot more when he needs attention and specifically what kind of attention he needs.”

Separation anxiety has been a hot topic regarding pets and the coronavirus. Lots of pets have become used to their owners being home 24/7. Many people expect their pets to develop separation anxiety when they return to work or school. Jacob Lamp, an undecided junior, has experienced separation anxiety problems with his 4-year-old Jack Russell terrier named Quasi.

“He’s a little dog with a lot of love and a big personality, he fit right into our family,” Lamp said in an email. “That being said, he already does have some acute separation and general anxiety, so I’m sure when things start to pick up more he will probably notice. But it’s nothing some treats and some attention can’t fix.”

Quasi has been with Lamp for three years. Both before and throughout the pandemic, Quasi has made the Lamp family happier by providing cuddles. Quasi also keeps his owner active, as the two go outside on regular walks.

Like Tee, Lauren McCain, a junior studying journalism, also gets emotional support during COVID-19 from her newly adopted dog, Fiona. 

Fiona is a 3-year-old mix of Staffordshire bull terrier, rottweiler and shar pei. McCain adopted Fiona from an animal shelter in Columbus three months ago. 

McCain, who was dealing with both COVID-19’s impacts and her mental health issues, felt that Fiona would help her feel better.

“I mean, pets are work,” McCain said as she pet Fiona on her front porch. “It's not like you can just get one and be like ‘OK, sit, be cute.’ She's definitely sometimes a little difficult on the budget — her food and stuff — but, I mean, it's worth it. I feel so much better, like, I was paying for therapy anyway. Why pay for therapy when you can pay for a dog?”

McCain said if she had been alone during her quarantine and social isolating, her experience would’ve been more difficult. For McCain, though, Fiona can be costly, but she’s overwhelmingly worth it. 

McCain and Fiona have bonded especially deeply because McCain has only had her, stuck at home, during the pandemic. McCain mentioned she and Fiona may even be a little too attached. 

“When I leave for a little bit, she kind of freaks, and I (even) take her with me when I’m going to the grocery store,” McCain said. “But when I (have to) leave, she kind of freaks a little bit, and I don’t know what’s gonna happen when we go back. They’re gonna be left at home, and it’s gonna be sad.”

McCain believes a lot of pets will feel this impact. Even her dachshund back at home has become overly attached to her mom. However, strong attachment is part of what McCain values most in her relationship with Fiona. 

“Dogs give you something to wake up to every day,” McCain said. “And with COVID, it was more of the same, every single day. Now, you wake up and you don’t do anything, but with a dog, you’ve got someone there … She’s special.”


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