COLORADO SPRINGS — In our Rebound Colorado coverage, we've spent weeks providing ideas and resources for managing mental health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. News5 learned pet ownership is helping many people with the anxiety and stress they've faced this year.
They've been called man's best friend and companions to help us take on our daily challenges. People who work with dogs and other animals every day say in 2020 pets are playing an important role when it comes to managing our mental health.
"One day we were sitting and we were talking about the phone calls we were receiving from seniors and how isolated they were and how lonely they were feeling. So, we talked about the possibility of having a therapy dog when they all return," said Fountain Valley Senior Center Program Director Mark Bowers.
After that conversation, the Fountain Valley Senior Center now has a new puppy. His name is Emmett.
"Once he turns 1 year old, we'll be able to actually have him certified as a therapy dog," said Bowers. "We're just really hoping that for those seniors who come back who may have lost friends through this whole process, who have been so isolated and don't have family around, that Emmett will be able to notice that and will be able to recognize those things in folks and just be able to go up to them and just be a friend."
Leah Dolan-Kelley says with the challenges of this year her family needed a friend too.
"When we first started working from home, it was screen time all day long. Computer. Phone. TV," said Dolan-Kelley. "I couldn't get a break. I ended up getting a coloring book to give my mind something else to do. You were stuck in the house with nothing else to do except for work and social media."
They decided to bring "Willow" home from the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region and immediately noticed a difference.
"Our responsibility is to make her into a good dog citizen. So, it takes that mental exhaustion off of you and refocuses it into something really good and positive," said Dolan-Kelley.
Dolan-Kelley says she's learned first hand how pets have become a source of comfort during this challenging year.
"I'm at home now working on the computer and I see her sleeping at my feet and my heart just melts," she said. "Then I get to bend down and just pet her and it's just so sweet and it takes a little stress off of me."
Local animal shelters say this dog's story is an example of the good things that they're seeing.
"It's kind of a good time to be a shelter dog because they're not even here long before they're out the door and into a brand new family," said Gretchen Pressley of the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. "On four different days at both of our campuses we did adopt out all of the available dogs and cats so that was wonderful to see how many were leaving at once."
Fortunately, a majority of these adopted animals have not returned to the shelter.
"It's really wonderful that not only are these pets finding homes, but they're staying in those homes and I think it has been a comfort for people," said Pressley. "If they are stuck at home, maybe not seeing their friends and family as much they have in the past, that new pet to care for to meet their needs really can give them that distraction. That little bit of extra love in their lives."
Do you want to bring home a new pet now? Pet experts say there's a lot that we should consider before we leap into pet ownership.
The experts at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region are ready to help you plan and are willing to help walk you through the process, or answer any questions you may have. Visit https://www.hsppr.org/ for more information from the experts at the Colorado Springs and Pueblo locations.