The importance of having pets, and a plan in place to care for them if you’re away



Dear N.T.,


You clearly have a dilemma. We know that staying home and living alone can be an isolating experience.

Pets can ease the void by providing comfort and companionship with unconditional love and affection while fulfilling the human need for physical touch. Furthermore, caring for a pet provides one with responsibility and purpose, a reason to get up in the morning. And there’s more. According to studies, interacting with a dog or cat can lower your blood pressure and cortisol levels, while stimulating oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, chemicals that help our bodies relax. So, there is good reason that you are feeling better.


Now to your problem: Check the internet for dogwalking and pet daycare services. Some daycare services offer to pick-up and deliver your pet. If either of these don’t work, consider finding a good “doggy hotel” or kennel. For three days, your dog will be well cared for, fed and exercised.


Your question raises the issue of what to do with a pet if you are unable to care for it? It’s a good idea to make alternative plans for your dog or other pet before you need the service, particularly when facing the stress of procedures, surgeries and treatments.


The pandemic has raised increased interest in pets. Here are some interesting facts.

  • In Southern California, many animal shelters are running out of dogs as pets because of the increased demand and also because fewer families are turning in their pets during the pandemic.

  • Families are having two dogs rather than one. The pro argument is that two dogs can entertain one another which is considered vital to a dog’s health, happiness and overall development. The con side is the work cleaning up after them, twice the fur, twice the potty pick-ups and twice the barking. Note the first family has two dogs.

  • Animal adoption rates have skyrocketed as have waiting lists for certain types of dogs. Breeders also have waiting lists.

  • Dogs are getting used to having 24/7 company as adults are working at home and children are attending classes at home. Dogs tend to acclimate to this constant company and are reported to have a difficult time adjusting to being alone once again.

  • According to Entrepreneur.com, pets are recession-proof and big business. The industry is forecasted to reach $281 billion by 2023, according to market research firm Edge by Ascential.

We know that pets including dogs and cats are considered important family members; some even receive and send holiday and birthday cards. Those with no children frequently see their pets almost as a substitute. During this pandemic, pets play an important role in preventing loneliness, giving individuals a sense of purpose and having the experience of a loving companion.


A personal commentary: When I was growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, many families had dogs but few if any had two unless they were living on a farm. We didn’t discuss the importance of exercising a dog since most ran around in a fenced-in backyard. Socializing your dog was not part of one’s vocabulary. Dog services did not exist, which meant that dogs typically did not get their teeth brushed (which they should), or their toenails clipped or their hair shampooed and trimmed. Dogs only went to the vet for immunizations or when they were sick. They never were dressed in raincoats or Halloween costumes or were pushed in a baby stroller. Yet, today’s pets with all of these trimmings enrich the lives of pet owners including adults and children. But these extras add to the joy of having a pet.


N.T., thank you for raising an important question. Wishing you a speedy recovery from your scheduled procedure. Stay safe and well, and be kind to yourself and others – and of course, enjoy your loving dog – who will just love you back.


Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging, employment and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Helendenn@gmail.com. Visit Helen at HelenMdennis.com and follow her on facebook.com/SuccessfulagingCommunity