Mattie the dog. Mia Ruggiero/MainSheet

by Grace Rufo

​People not only across the United States, but all over the world, are facing new problems they didn’t anticipate with the pressures of quarantining for Covid 19. As the virus continues to spread, and people worry for their health, they spend more and more time isolated. Some of these problems include depression, anxiety over limitations and isolation, loneliness, increased use of alcohol or drugs and emotional overeating. However, people’s pets do not know what is happening in this pandemic. They are naive, protected, and get the benefit of more love and attention than normal from their caregivers.  Especially for people living alone, pets are warm, non-judgmental, and unconditionally loving. They might remind people that they can’t control the government mandated restrictions.  Pets go with the flow, so to speak; they are very present creatures, and this teaches people that they can’t always control the future.  

One might ask, scientifically, how is a pet going to improve one’s mental health? ​

“The primary impact is the increase in oxytocin; a hormone that improves bonding in humans. This hormone will increase through snuggling, petting, and unconditional love: dogs are strong on this.” said local psychologist Nancy Shannon who also stated that, “An increase in human oxytocin levels is linked to a decrease in the symptoms of stress/anxiety and depression, such as hypertension and anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure).” 

With all of the skyrocketing rates of depression and anxiety, a creature naive to the plethora of problems being faced would be helpful for most. An unconditionally loving creature, such as a dog, would take one’s mind off of the harsh reality populations face. With the growing feeling of loneliness that comes with isolation, most people would benefit from some company, even from an animal.

“Folks tend to talk to their pets, and this helps keep them actively socializing when isolated…” said Shannon. “Others will often respond warmly, even when socially distant, when walking a pet. This attention allows the person to feel more accepted, which decreases the impact of feeling alone in the world.” 

Not only does walking a pet allow for social interaction, but it also allows for exercise. With the extra time on everyone’s hands, most dog owners find they are taking their furry friends for more walks per day. Studies conducted by Science Daily suggest that dog owners actually live longer.

According to a new study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a journal of the American Heart Association. “Dog ownership may be associated with longer life and better cardiovascular outcomes, especially for heart attack and stroke survivors who live alone.” 

Not only do pets comfort people during such a time of uncertainty, but they might increase your chances of fighting off Covid-19. Being in good health with a strong immune system seems to be a common trait among Covid survivors. Not only do pets help their owners, but being home enough to establish a strong bond with your companions will help them in the long run too.

“There is evidence suggesting that pets are attuned with our emotions”, stated a study held by Yale University’s Canine Cognition Center. Creating a stronger bond with them will only strengthen this emotional connection.

As the virus continues to spread and people worry for their health, more and more find mental health problems inflate. Not only this, but the feeling of loneliness in isolation is inevitable. However, pets are naive to the pandemic, and receive more love and attention from their owners than ever. Not only do they receive their owners love, but owners also receive theirs. Pets remind people that we can’t always control our current situation, and it is worth it to slow down. In other words, having a furry friend will increase your chances of quarantine survival.

My Beloved Dog Mattie

“Mattie is my beautiful Yorkshire terrier. He is eight years old and has a very peculiar birthday; Halloween. If I could describe him in one word it would most surely be this: fireball. He has this energy about him that never seems to run out. We always say Mattie could give the Energizer Bunny a run for his money. He’s always looking to play and will never hesitate to bring you one of his many toys.

If Mattie wants your attention, he will always succeed in getting it because he just doesn’t give up. He has this fierce determination inside himself that I wish I had at times. He’s never lost that spark of life in his big brown eyes. He still has that bark that screams “I am strong. I am here.”

Mattie came to us when he was just a little pup. I still remember the little Santa hat his breeder had put on him as he was brought to our door. Such a small and fragile little being yet already so full of life and love to give. Little did we know just how much love he would truly bring to our home.

My family was going through a particularly difficult time when Mattie arrived. My brother, Matthew, had just recently passed away that previous summer of June 2011 while serving overseas. Everything was a chaotic mess and there wasn’t much light to keep the darkness at bay.

 I was a grieving 14-year-old at the time and my world seemed like it was crashing down all around me. Very little could bring me happiness then. Then came this tiny little ball of brown and black hair and I saw light again.

Even today Mattie is helping me in ways only he can. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for many years now. With the coronavirus pandemic and everything else going on in the world, sometimes it feels like it’s just too much. Then Mattie crawls into my lap or lays right by my side and I know then that everything will be alright simply because he’s there.

Mattie is so much more than “man’s best friend.” He is truly a member of the family. My “little brother” as I have always called him. He has helped more than any human truly could. And I will remember the memories we’ve made long after his time on this Earth has passed. Your “sister” loves you Mattie. Now and always.”

-Mia Ruggiero

Quarantine propels our pets toward more love and food

“After my 3:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. class, my cat began to touch the keys on my computer as if he could scoop them up for a snack. At this time of day, I always need a snack, but my cat requests them frequently throughout the day. Sometimes, he just uses his claws to grab his catnip-infused frog toy to distract me from my virtual meetings. Most of the time he treats my computer as if it were a hurdle— just a field activity before he is on track toward the nexus of food: the kitchen. Quarantine has given my cat the thought that waltzing upon my laptop/work space, playing with his tail and the computer’s features, is just merely a part of the yellow brick road to get the food that he craves. He may be wrong, but his chartreuse green eyes abound with so much affection that I decide to take a stroll with him to the kitchen.

Once we make it down the mahogany stairs, he gallops toward the black and stainless steel oven to perform a sharp right turn to officially make it to his destination: the divine kitchen. He plans on claiming his food this instant, mistaking the particles that are in the air from our late lunch of grilled chicken, brown basmati rice, and a vegetable motley for his canned food. Shutting the stainless door of our refrigerator, my cat reposes his front paws on the rippled edges of the granite countertops by the right of the sink that is only five feet away, ostensibly imploring that I hurry up. Spontaneously, I reach for the fluff on his underbelly, a motley of mostly black with a patch of white, and then kiss him on the top of his soft dome. My furry confidante, who gives me so much solace when it is absent from my mind, decides to eat his meal at another spot on the second floor of the house. I suppose I will just have to wait until he is ready for me to run the comb through his dense fur to remove the knots and the stray pieces of food that stick to his fur from time to time. He is such an ungainly and gentle giant!”

-Alexandria Zine

Phineus

“He lays there on the couch in the sun, rolling over at the sound of my voice, letting out a soft meow. He is always so happy, I’ve never seen this dude scratch or bite anyone, unless you get him really excited via his royal blue shoestring. Even then, it’s out of love. He wakes up, eats, sits on the deck and goes back to bed. That is the bulk of his day to day activities; occasionally he’ll sit on the neighbors deck instead. I scratch his very large and very fluffy white stomach thinking, you’re always so relaxed.

With so much happening in the world right now, with all of us trying to learn and adapt in this very fast transforming life we live, I find I learn the most from him. I know he is unaware of COVID, I know he is also unaware of the racial injustice going on, or the wild fires, or the birds falling out of the sky (which he would love), I am aware of all of this. These are things that weigh heavy on all of our minds, as they should, everyday. We are expected to learn about and adapt to these new issues we face. We want to do everything in our power to help, as we should, but at the same time, when is the last time we have sat back and decided to be easy on ourselves. It is important to be involved, and it is also important to retract and protect your mental health. The issues we are facing are issues our generation has never personally dealt with before 2020.

Sitting with Phineus in the morning, having coffee on the deck while he rubs in and out of my bare feet and blanketed legs, I think to myself, I like the way you think. He reminds me that it is OK to slow down once in a while, it is ok to take a step back, and it is always ok to protect your well being.”

-Grace Rufo

Pets during COVID

“As an avid dog lover who does not have a dog of their own, I took a strong liking to my best friend’s dog during the beginning of the pandemic. Since we were both home from college, my best friend and I would spend days at a time together, which meant days at a time with her dog. My best friend and her dad both work late night jobs and unfortunately, don’t have a lot of time to spend at home with their dog. They often would turn to me as someone who could watch their dog for a night or two, which I am always more than happy to do. A lot of the time prior to COVID, their dog slept throughout the day because her owners were often too busy to spend more than a few minutes with her. Now, since I’ve been able to spend more time with her, she gets lots of attention, making her more upbeat and energetic. Little thing’s, like pets, allow us to see that COVID was a blessing in disguise, giving the world a reset on our busy lives. It has been a blessing being able to spend more time with one of my favorite dogs and I love spending my free time giving her all the attention that she needs. I have created quite the bond with this dog and walking into their house makes me just as excited as she gets to see me.”

Skyler Bradley