Across every region, ethnicity and political leaning, there is one topic on which most every American person agrees: our pets, and most especially, our canine counterparts, are at the heart of our lives.
According to the 2019-2020 research from the American Pet Products Association (APPA) more than 67 percent of U.S. households (approximately 85 million families) own at least one pet. You heard that right: 85 million of America’s 128.5 million households own at least one animal. Many own more. And the most popular household pets by far (63.4 percent) are our dogs.
Not surprisingly, our pets are a budget priority as well – APPA pegs the U.S. pet product industry at $19.2 billion (and estimates indicate that all in, we spend close to $100 billion on our pets every year).
Our dogs have been our friends and unsung heroes from the beginning of civilized time. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, pet owners have valued their fur-covered family members for more than the companionship they provide.
By their very nature pets are the source of myriad health and well-being benefits:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Lower triglyceride levels
- Fewer feelings of loneliness
- Greater opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Greater opportunities for socialization (If you’re socially awkward, you’ve probably noticed the way everyone’s eyes light up when you’re out and about with a dog.)
But during the unprecedented stress we’re all experiencing in the current era of COVID-19, our dogs are doing more for us than you may even realize. Studies have shown that having pets in our homes lowers our stress in real and measurable ways.
For starters, our dogs require a schedule. And set routines help to keep our minds and bodies healthy along with our dogs. The routine and the chance to move and be outside in fresh air saves us from stress and depression.
Dogs can be the greatest of companions as well, as they are perennially cheerful, happy to see us, to love us and to spend time in our presence. They help to ward off loneliness and reduce the yearning for human socialization while we’re social distancing.
Dogs are loyal and protective of the families they serve. They provide our children with exercise and entertainment away from computers and screens.
These factors have long reflected the heart of 44-year-old KONG Company, in Colorado. KONG is the inventor and provider of the snowman-shaped KONG toy along with a spectrum of additional toys and products for pets. In the midst of COVID, the company has launched a #KONGBoxCares campaign that invites KONG Box subscribers to submit the inspirational stories of the support and benefit we currently get from our dogs.
Most are familiar with the snowman shaped rubber “KONG” dogs have been loving for decades as chew toys, training tools, and sources of entertainment (the hollow center is ideal for hiding bacon bits or peanut butter for the intrepid canine to find). In a recent GMA segment, for example, a celebrity trainer shows host Lara Spencer how to fill a KONG with kibble and peanut butter to keep her rescue dog, Riva, entertained and out of view while she broadcasts her GMA segments from home.
Other organizations are upping their game in acknowledgement of our canine heroes as well. For example, the Hearts & Bones Rescue in Orlando and Texas is naming rescue dogs after the healthcare heroes who are serving in the frontlines of support for patients with COVID-19. Some of their honorary rescue candidates include Dr. Zhang, Dr. Hope, Nurse Cassie and Officer Shawn.
The heroic names acknowledge the hope for a new start and happy life the healthcare heroes and the rescue dogs are providing.
Recently the Today Show acknowledged Tonka, a Great Dane therapy dog making visits to the individuals in long term care facilities to give support to the residents who are currently unable to receive human guests.
If you don’t yet have a dog, don’t despair. The Humane Society of America notes that now is a great time to adopt. Fostering is another great alternative if you’re yet ready for a full pet ownership commitment. As more people are working from home, there’s a greater ability to be available to care for an animal. There’s also the ability to answer the increase in requests for foster care for pet owners who may become seriously ill or hospitalized.
If even a foster pet seems too much, you have another option as well. Simply watching videos of pets can give you a healthy boost of serotonin to improve your mood and your health. In fact, studies suggest watching dog and cat video clips increases your energy and can make you more productive on tasks that require focus. Yet another reason to include and cherish the delight and loyalty of dogs in every part of our lives.