the soothing power of pets

When it comes to experiencing how pets can relieve stress, Pleasantville’s Eileen McFadden knows a thing or two. The pet mom of two cats adopted from the SPCA of Westchester and four rescue Golden Retrievers, she works at a job deemed essential. 

When coming home to her brood, she says, “I can feel my shoulders and neck start to relax and the tension leave my body. Brushing them is very relaxing. They all line up for their turn. I think the personal touch from me to them and vice versa has helped all of us.”

Pets make good companions, a lesson many people like Eileen already know. During the pandemic, they also have become, so to speak, essential workers: caring for those in isolation and/or experiencing anxiety. “Just petting a dog or cat has been shown to lower blood pressure and increase oxytocin, a hormone that promotes a sense of calmness. Interacting with any pet is a cure for boredom which is so easy to experience at this time,” points out Cynthia C. Eldredge, VMD of Croton-On-Hudson Veterinary Clinic.

Judith Baltich, 82, lives with her two-year-old German Shepherd Calle Rose. They can be found walking New York State trails throughout the year. Callee Rose gives Judith a chance to care for another being and, in return, the shepherd may be at least partly responsible for Judith’s medication-free life. “You have to take care of a pet and get out. Especially with a dog, you meet other people. Callee Rose’s company is unbelievable. She sleeps in my room. I cannot operate without a dog,” Judith admits.

And the benefits of pet ownership just keep coming. Yorktown Heights’ resident Liz Marlowe, 61, depends on her dog Beacon for companionship and to push back feelings of isolation. “Especially during quarantine, Beacon was my constant companion. I am not married anymore and it was so hard to see people during this time. My dog followed me everywhere in my house. I never felt alone,” Liz says.

Beacon also serves as a GPS for Liz. One day, when hiking a new trail, Liz couldn’t find her way back to the main trail. “Wouldn’t ya know it,” Liz marveled, “Beacon found our way home!”

As the pandemic struck, animal shelters across the country saw a sharp spike in pet adoptions and fosters. Shelter Animals Count, an independent nonprofit that is home to The National Database of sheltered animal statistics, put the adoption rate in April of 2020 at 84%, compared to 62% in 2019.

What’s happening here just might be the new pet normal. Dr. Eldredge affirms, pets give people the motivation to get up and start their day. “They can also provide a reason to exercise regularly and socialize safely outdoors with other people.”

Not surprisingly, more and more people recognize the companionship and improved well-being our pets bring us. They make life fuller and warmer. Pet parents can all agree with Eileen McFadden when she says, “Thank goodness I have all these beautiful animals to help keep me sane!”

Latest posts by Susan Eisenstein (see all)