Madison Thibodeau ’21, Editor-in-Chief

How many weeks, or even months, of social quarantine does it take to crave a new member of the family? No, not babies – we are talking about cute and furry puppies. For Maranda Thibodeau, my sister, it was about a few weeks before the surprising “look what I got” statement walked through the door.

Stuck in the tiny apartment following COVID-19 stay-at-home order, she started to get the well-known itch in mid-March for something furry, happy, and oblivious to the stress going on around the world. So, earlier this month, my sister adopted an 8-week-old Golden Retriever named Teddy from a small local farm. The white coat, floppy ears, and small paws was a lovable combination that immediately transformed their home life from gloomy to giddy.

In a matter of weeks, our lives were radically altered. Social calendars are wiped clean, leaving many of us with nothing but time to spare. And so, what better way to fill the time, and the silence, than with a furry companion? Cue the puppies, kittens, bunnies, hamsters, and even a few rats, all finding new homes among the pandemic-confined pet lovers.

We are all looking for ways to beat away the boredom and loneliness of the COVID-19 quarantine by turning to outlets like Zoom social hours or Netflix binges of “Tiger King” with friends and family we may not actually have physical contact with for months. However, unlike our virtual companions, a pet is actually on our sofa alongside us, breaking through the loneliness of social isolation.

A pet is also a way to wrestle control back into an unpredictable lifestyle. Our routines are completely different, but dogs will be there to beg for walking, feeding, cleaning, and snuggling. A pet’s schedule gets us out of bed and maybe even out of our pajamas and onto the streets for some much-needed fresh air.

Unsurprisingly, my sister is not alone in her calculation that a pandemic-mandated quarantine might be the best time to bring a pet into her life. Pets help ease feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression – making them seemingly ideal companions for an emergency situation that demands isolation from friends, family, and our normal day-to-day interactions. Pets can also decrease feelings of isolation and force us to get off the couch every few hours, traits that are perhaps even more important in the era of social distancing.

Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States says pets can help ease loneliness and depression by giving us companionship. They make special note of the helpful effects of dogs. The CDC claims that dogs can have many helpful and healthy effects on the lives of their owners. Dogs can influence social, emotional, and mental development in children; help to make their owners more physically active; provide companionship; and reduce people’s stress and anxiety. The CDC estimates that around 38 percent of American households have one or more dogs.

Evan MacLean is a biological anthropologist at the University of Arizona who says that dogs can provide emotional support during the current worldwide health crisis. Furthermore, owning a dog not only makes a person feel good emotionally – dogs also appear to help control heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Even simply petting your dog in a soft, slow way may help you both feel more at ease during stressful situations. Dogs can give us support and help us “navigate the storm.” In other words, they help us get through a very bad time. Pets are a source of comfortand happiness. They give their owners pleasant feelings and a sense of purpose, especially during stressfulor difficult times.

As stay-at-home orders spread around the country, recommendations for how to cope are suddenly everywhere. There are suggestions on how to support your favorite small businesses, donation funds for laid-off workers, and pleas to take in animals that might be stuck in shelters without enough caretakers, or worse. As quarantines have become more and more restrictive, interest in pet ownership has seemingly ballooned everywhere.

In the past three weeks, adoption rates have varied greatly across the country, while instances of fostering have increased significantly in mass numbers. Shelter and rescue organizations nationwide are reporting unprecedented interest in fostering and adopting as people who are sheltering in place turn to kittens and puppies, dogs and cats, and here and there a rabbit, for comfort during the Coronavirus crisis. Amid the lock-down, an independent and hard-headed nation has discovered that what it really needed right now is a snuggle and a lick.

On, adoption inquiries in the four weeks between March 15 and April 15 jumped 122 percent from the previous four weeks. People are fostering, too, as shelters look to empty their facilities during the pandemic. Since March 15, more than 1,500 people have completed online foster applications for the ASPCA’s New York City and Los Angeles foster programs, a 500 percent increase compared to typical application numbers usually seen in this period.

When you imagine untold weeks of pacing the same home and seeing and talking with the same limited number of people, the idea of a cute, cuddly companion which you can pet, take walks with, and talk to is suddenly incredibly appealing. Isolated in homes, uncertain about the future, and desperate for unconditional love – people are seeking the comfort and companionship of pets during this COVID-19 quarantine. This sudden boom in puppy adoptions is unmistakably due to social distancing and has transformed the term “man’s best friend” into “quarantine buddy.” We do not know what our world is going to look like in six months or even a year. Our lives will look very different with the possibility of public mask-wearing, stay-at-home work, and elbow handshakes for an unknown amount of time. However, for some of us, those different lives will include a furry friend.