For the past few months, the world as we know it has been dealing with an unprecedented crisis. In late December, a virus was discovered in China that had a national outbreak within that country. The coronavirus, which is a large family of viruses can cause illnesses ranging widely in severity. The first known severe illness caused by the coronavirus emerged with SARS (Severe Acute Respitory Syndrome). The second outbreak was with the sever illness in 2012 with MERS (Middle East Respitory Syndrome). In December of 2019, Chinese officials alerted the WHO (World Health Organization) of an outbreak of a novel strain of the coronavirus which could cause severe illness. By February, 2020, more than 165,000 cases had been documented in the country, and it was confirmed that there were more than 6,000 deaths.₁ The viral outbreak in China began to spread at an alarming rate, and the numbers were staggering. Notably discovered in the city of Wuhan, there were questions as to how the virus was being spread. Researchers examined various scenarios as to how the virus could be transmitted from one host to another. One introduction of the virus into the human population, and the levels of transmission spiked in increased numbers that allowed for human to human contact that spread in pandemic proportions. The virus was able to survive on various common surfaces that when met with human contact made for the rapid rise of the disease. Hence, the need to wash hands thoroughly, use sanitizers, and not to touch one's face were the initial instructions given as to slowing down the transmission process.2 Now, you may ask what has all this to do with the joy of companionship. I shall expound on this in a moment.
When COVID-19, as it was being termed, hit the country, no one had a clue as to the devastating effect it would have on our way of life, or economy, our places of worship and our families. Most of the states issued a "shelter in place' order as a means of slowing down the virus and reducing transmission. These quarantine orders have been especially hard on most people, especially our seniors and those living alone. Most of us are used to being in our house for a time, but then we can get up, go outside, go to an event or social and have some form of social contact. Not lately, as the last couple of months have taught us. We must also note that it has been hard on our pets. While most pet owners still take their dogs out for walks, there has the problem of social distancing, which some choose not to practice. This has caused many to curtail those walks and relegate their pets to the backyard or walking in a very limited space. Its been heartbreaking seeing some of the animals who are so used to being out now forced to stay in, just like their owners. It does weigh on the hearts of pet parents everywhere. There has been one delightful bright spot in this midst of this pandemic. Many of our pets have brought us the joys of companionship. Yes, we relish the time spent with our spouses and children. This however means experiencing a new level of companionship with a valued member of our family. Personally speaking, I can say that since I have been working from home, I have loved having my cat Tony, here with me on a daily basis, practically twenty-four hours of the day. Plus, he's not complaining. He loves the attention I can give him and he's practically glued to my side if I go anywhere in the house. I love it!
There have also been other golden moments from the joys of companionship that we've seen when it comes to our friends in the animal kingdom. There has been a 40% increase of adoptions from rescue shelters and the joy these animals are bringing to their new forever homes. Many of the seniors, be it in their own homes or a nursing home facility, are having a wonderful experience with these beloved creatures. Many of us have seen the images of people having to visit their relatives on the other side of the window. That is a most depressing scene. Yet, when these people have pets in their lives, they are being elevated to a newfound sense of joy and peace, knowing they can offer an animal love and shelter, while being reciprocated with unconditional love. Yes, that joy cannot compare to anything else the madness of this pandemic could offer. When you've been frustrated to the point of no return over not being able to purchase supplies for your family or wondering will we ever get back to some semblance of normalcy. We have our beloved animal companions to remind us to have hope in this crisis. Also to know that we are not alone. That is a comforting thought.
I am so glad to see the need for animals to be adopted out, and thankful they are finding loving forever homes. For many of us, this is a way of life we never expected. The threat of an economic recession, social behaviors remodified and the closure of places and events that are near and dear to us. For the animals, they would never know any of those things. Even so, living day to day in a cage where they receive as much attention as their caregivers can give them. We will reach a new normal, and move on. Theirs will always be the same. They are not only changing our lives for the better, but we are definitely changing theirs. Always remember that when considering adopting a pet. Continue to be well, safe and healthy.
1. Kristian G. Andersen, Andrew Rambaut, W. Ian Lipkin, Edward C. Holmes, Robert F. Garry. The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2. Nature Medicine, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41591-020-0820-9
2. Scripps Research Institute. "COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic has a natural origin." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 March 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200317175442.htm