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New dog owners share experiences for National Love Your Pet Day, Feb. 20, how dogs improved personal mental health

Submitted Photo: Shri Atluri
Sophomore Shri Atluri plays with his cockapoo, Teddy, on a winter afternoon. Like many others, Atluri and his family adopted their dog at the start of the quarantine.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, sophomore Shri Alturi and his family decided to adopt their dog Teddy.

“I got a cockapoo, which is a poodle and cocker spaniel mix. We got him exactly on Leap Day—so, Feb. 29, 2020—and have only had him for a year,” Alturi said.

“I think we bought (our dog) at that time because I think we had the time to take care of him, and previously we didn’t have that much time, we would have to leave (our dog) for eight hours at a time, which would not be ideal for a puppy. So we finally had time and always leaned towards getting a dog, so that’s why we got him.”

At the start of 2021, junior Reva Patil adopted her puppy Cosmo. While she said it has been difficult to maintain and take care of her puppy, it has also been incredibly rewarding. “(Adopting a puppy) is like bringing a new family member that comes into your house, so it’s completely different if it weren’t there and it’s just this new companion that we have,” Patil said. (Submitted Photo: Reva Patil)

Similarly, junior Reva Patil said she adopted her puppy after she saw her friends and family adopt pets during the pandemic.

“I don’t have any siblings, I’m an only child, so we thought it would be a fun experience getting a pet and having it live around the house,” she said. “I think that a lot of people have free time on their hands and staying at home is kind of daunting and lonely so people need that companionship and they want a companion so they go and get pets. I think since they have a lot of free time on their hands they can take care of it as opposed to if they were at work.”

Atluri and Patil are not the only ones who purchased a dog during the quarantine. According to the Washington Post dog adoptions and sales have soared during the pandemic across the nation.

Sarah Kazmierczak, Spanish IV teacher and pet owner, said she has noticed this trend as well. Like Alturi and Patil, she and her family also adopted a dog during the pandemic.

“Because of COVID-19 and because everything was shut down, people were trying to give those dogs homes so that they were taken care of. Also, I think when we were all in our homes and there wasn’t much to do I think people felt like they had the time to invest in a pet and I think it provided a lot of needed comfort and distraction at that time, which is definitely for the case for us,” she said. “When we were looking for our dog and doing research, I read a lot of stuff and I saw that a lot of people were adopting dogs and that a lot of these shelters were empty, which is pretty cool.”

Atluri said while the first few months of raising his dog Teddy were difficult, over time he said he was able to develop a strong bond.

Kazmierczak said she agreed, and in addition to forming a personal connection with her dog, she said owning a pet during this quarantine has improved her mental health and well-being.

“(My husband and I) cannot imagine not having our dog during this time,” she said. “I think for me it was a couple of things. I feel like my dog—no matter what is going on with the world, no matter how anxious or uncertain I feel about the world—she is always happy to see me and gives this unconditional love and comfort no matter what’s going on around the world. It’s just a really nice distraction. When there’s not a lot to do, it was really fun to train her and go on walks. (Our dog) got me outside and walking around in our neighborhood and helped me get out of the house in a safe way. Dogs are cute so she is always doing something funny and cute and just helps us feel better.”

Patil said she agreed and said owning and taking of her puppy has made her less cranky, more calm and gives her something to do during her e-learning breaks.

Atluri said,  “During my finals week I had like six finals in the span of two days, and so I would say once every two hours I would take a 10- to 15-minute break and spend time with my dog and my whole attention span would be completely diverted from everything else that was going on and just as been a big help with relieving stress.”

Kazmierczak said, “For me (my dog) is really special because I did not have any pets growing up. My brother and I begged my parents every year, but we never did as a family. So for a long time I thought when I get on my own I’m going to get a dog and kindly have that experience. My husband had a childhood dog, and for him it was a very special thing growing up. She passed away a few years ago and we kind of waited. We knew together that we always wanted to get a dog, partly for me because I’ve never had that experience. 

“I guess for me it’s just exciting,” she added. “I know when I get home she is going to be excited to see me and I think with dogs you don’t even need to say anything, they just know what you need and want to be close to you and give you that unconditional love. That’s something for me that really makes me feel better when I am stressed and I look forward to having her there.”

Atluri said this past year with COVID-19 has been tough on a lot of people worldwide.

“You can have a strong physical aspect, but if you don’t have a strong mental health you don’t have motivation and (it) can bring you down,” Atluri said. “I feel like having a pet benefits you because it’s just another positive thing in your life and for some people it can drastically change your mental health. There is always a positive aspect when you see your pet.”

Kazmierczak said, “I think COVID-19 has been such a unique experience. I think more than ever we have had to figure out how to take care of ourselves and I think for a lot of people pets have provided that comfort.” 

Joshika Sathyamathan
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