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Your Source of Comfort During “Social Distancing” May Be Right at Your Feet


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Maggie O’Haire, associate professor of human-animal interaction in the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine, is leading research that reveals the science behind how companion animals support humans.

Purdue University photo/Rebecca McElhoe

Humans by nature are social beings, so it’s not surprising that when the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) began recommending “social distancing” in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many were caught off guard and even trepidatious.

I, too, a self-described introvert and homebody, found the news a bit startling. I began to realize how significantly this change would affect our lives: no playdates, extracurricular activities or even school for my boys, no group game nights, no coffee dates with friends, no Target outings, no running to the store just for a pint of ice cream … basically, stay at home. I full-heartedly support and am adhering to “social distancing” mind you (as are the rest of the PPN staff), but it’s important that I find alternate sources of social interaction to alleviate any associated stress with being cooped up longer than I’m used to.

The answer, according to researchers at the Center for the Human-Animal Bond in Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine, may be the two dogs lying beside my desk as I write this.

“During a time when many people are practicing social distancing from their human support networks, animal companionship may be an increasingly important source of social support,” said Maggie O’Haire, associate professor of human-animal interaction in the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine. “Evidence from the field of human-animal interaction highlights the often profound capacity of pets to provide interaction, joy and comfort.”

While I’ve always leaned on my four-legged friends for support, I suspect they’ll be receiving extra snuggles from me throughout this unprecedented time. Them being social themselves, I don’t think they’ll mind.

On a personal note, I, along with the rest of the PPN staff, would like to thank all those individuals and businesses who are out providing essential services during this time, including, but not limited to, pet store retailers, veterinarians, human health care workers, dispatchers, police officers, firefighters and grocery store personnel. You’re helping many people not only take care of themselves, but their pets as well.

 

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