Love is genuinely unconditional even if it barks and meows.
In the limited environment brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, being with somebody helps us to feel more alive especially when it asks for nothing in return—just pure love and care.
Pets are one of those living things who wholeheartedly give us smiles and comfort.
With their silly looks and simple gestures, it eases worries and stress drawn by different aspects of life.
Love of Life
Three Shih Tzu dogs and two cocker spaniels are the “love of life” of Tiktok sensation Arah May Virtucio, who is a student of veterinary medicine.
Arah gained the hearts of 186, 700 followers by her lifestyle and veterinary medicine-related content that now has 191 Tiktok videos. She received lots of appreciation gaining 2.2 million likes.
With the much attention and support she is receiving online, there are still times where stress and anxiety suffocate her.
“My three Shih Tzus are my company when I experienced my lowest point in life last year. They made me stay sane and stayed with me when I was really down and stressed,” Arah said.
As a graduating student, Arah faces many challenges and her dogs consistently give her companionship and unconditional love. As an owner herself, she believes that human-animal relationship has a mutual benefit and humans must be responsible providers for the pets.
“If you are planning to have a pet. I would recommend adopting,” Arah suggested.
Animals need great love and affection especially the sheltered ones—who, after going through a hard past, are looking for reassurance and appreciation they truly deserve.
The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) deeply campaigns to educate the Filipino people on responsible pet ownership.
With the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns became mandatory and get-to-together drawn out of the context. The need for companionship leads many people to build deeper relationships with pets.
Pet is a Life Saver
For Eca Ngui, a writer and college instructor, a pet like hers is a life saver.
Eca’s family has had pets since forever. Her mom was a huge dog lover that basically made their home her little animal shelter. They previously had 9 dogs and many cats. At present, they have 2 dogs and 1 cat; her dog Porkchop, her sister’s dog Calvin, and Max, their puspin.
Porkchop became Eca’s “therapist” during the most challenging time of her life after losing her mom to a brain tumor at the start of the pandemic. “Grief comes in waves, there are good and bad days, but most days I miss her. And I believe Porkchop misses her too,” Eca said.
Regardless how picky-eater Porky is, he’s still Eca’s reason to wake up and to put one step in front of the other.
“I clung unto him like my last sanity line,” Eca added. “I believe our dogs think of us as the best person ever, so I will try my best to be that awesome person he thinks I am,” Eca said.
Not only Eca is being helped to cope with challenges brought about by life through animal-assisted therapy.
In fact, PAWS has a Dr. Dog Program, which has been a proven kind of animal-assisted therapy to help provide important mental and physical benefits to patients and their families.
Canine consultants, together with their volunteer handlers, conduct well-ordered visits to hospitals, disabled centers, homes for the young and elderly, orphanages and schools.
Sharon Bengzon-Yap, the Education Officer of PAWS shared that they witnessed positive changes among their elderly patients who undergo Dr. Dog Program. From low blood pressure and lower heart rates, their breathing became more regular and their muscle tension was eased.
But pandemic happened…
However, due to Covid-19 pandemic, PAWS has had to stop all operations except for the clinic.
The clinic operates when there is medical assistance requested from them, but most of PAWS events are now online. Unfortunately, Dr. Dog Program is not fitted for virtual set-up since its goal is not achievable without physical contact.
“We usually say that our pets are actually our very own therapy dog, you don’t need a license or a therapy dog from PAWS to be able to have the effects of having a therapy dog,” Ms. Sharon said.
Another organization that pursues Animal-Assisted Intervention (AAI) is Communtails, a firm believer of human-animal bond as as part of complex key for healing.
Dr. Ronald Allan Cruz, member of the Board of Directors of Communitails described AAI as an umbrella term for activities that involve improving the situation of a person with the help of an animal.
He said AAI has three major forms:
1. Animal-Assisted Activities – least structured and does not necessitate careful long-term monitoring and assessment of the progress in the person’s condition
2. Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) – must be done with health care professionals and has specific therapy goals that necessitate monitoring and assessment of the person’s progress
3. Animal-Assisted Education (AAE) – must be done with educational professionals and has specific educational goals that also necessitate monitoring and assessment
While different in approach, all three types have the ultimate goal of wellness and improving the condition of the person with the assistance of an animal.
Dr. Cruz shared that Communitails have several Human-Animal Teams (HATs), consisting of a pair of animal (currently all dogs) and human handler who have gone through screening and training by the organization.
Currently, training workshops are conducted for HATs or humans who want to help in AAI without animals of their own. Moreover, online seminars that aim to raise awareness on mutual healing, the human-animal bond (HAB), and AAI.
Communitails have been working with various individuals and institutions by providing them with AAI services through dedicated HATs.
The feedback from Communitails’ activities are very positive and encouraging, clients are expressing joy and relief.
Dogs commonly are genuine, loving, and comforting that makes them excellent companions in wellness. These qualities make people more comfortable and willing to relax and lower their defenses.
“Physical interactions with dogs, such as through hugging and petting, also releases oxytocin, which is a hormone in our nervous system that gives us a positive rush of emotions coming from intimate physical contact,” Dr. Cruz said.
“Clients have verbally shared with us that they felt more relaxed, uplifted, and less anxious after a session with our HATs,” Ronald added.
The formal program evaluations have similarly shown positive effects of sessions, particularly among college students.
Hard Days Pay Off
Dr. Kiala Austria, a veterinarian, gladly shared it’s a good thing that many people are now aware of the joys these companion animals bring to lives, especially during these difficult times.
As a doctor, every single day on duty is a challenge.
“There are days when I have to watch fur parents bid their last goodbye and give their babies the last hug. It never gets easier,” Doc Kiala said.
But, as furmom too, going home to her two lovely cats is her favorite part of the day. Being able to hug them gives her a lot of comfort especially during the hard days.
Different kinds of people have different kinds of love languages even with their pets. Nonetheless, the joy and comfort they bring are more than enough to make us feel at ease and loved.
Our pets see us as their only home, it is just our responsibility to make them feel at home too.
About the Author
Airah Bombase is a Broadcasting student from the Laguna State Polytechnic University – Sta. Cruz and currently an editorial intern of SubSelfie.com.