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We’re Lucky to Have Pets, Now More than Ever


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When will this nightmare end? Sure, eventually the pandemic will end, as the experts say on TV “we will get through this.” That’s true, but not without scars, as many of us have lost friends, colleagues and/or relatives, even spouses. That’s not to mention the emotional toll this has taken, and clearly economic hit which contributes to and accelerates an even greater emotional toll.

I was so pleased to hear former First Lady Laura Bush (partnering with another first lady, Michelle Obama) thank veterinarians (and, of course, many others) on the national TV special One World Together at Home. (If you happened to miss it – it’s worth watching the sincere words of these two classy ladies)

Like all other professions, veterinary professionals have been lost to COVID-19, including my friend, Dr. Peter Sakas.

Dr. Jodi Lulich

But we’ve not only lost those we know, some have lost a bit of themselves through all this. I’ve not seen it better described than what Dr. Jodi Lulich said in this op-ed piece in the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, “I am a veterinarian, but also a pet parent, and this epidemic has heightened my feelings for my own dog and cat. And I am not immune from worry — who would care for them if I and my husband should fall ill and die? I look into their eyes with new intensity and appreciation of their silent empathy and affection. In this perilous time, pets offer their innocence and love, and their comfort is needed more than ever.”

Experts suggest out of the pandemic sheltering in place orders, one outcome will be a spike in drug overdoses and suicides. I can’t help but wonder if suicide rates and overdoses will be be lower among those with companion animals, or even among those who are able to get outside and simply commune with nature.

Sadly, we know that suicide rates are off the charts for soldiers diagnosed with PTSD with nearly 40 attempts daily, and around half that number succeed at ending their own lives. For veterans with PTSD who happen to have a service dog, the number of drugs they use to battle PTSD and depression diminishes, and suicide rates become equal to the general population.

I don’t think most of us will truly come through the pandemic unvarnished – but I predict those lucky enough to have pets will fair better than those without.

 

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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