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How Sheltering Dogs Can Help People Stay Social Safely

“Each contact with a human being is so rare, so precious, one should preserve it.” Anais Nin

“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”Andy Rooney

Social distancing is still the norm in many places, leaving people with six-foot gaps between one another. That may be a blessing in disguise, however, if we fill those gaps in with shelter dogs. Like grease between gears, dogs can help humans mesh in the—properly spaced—flesh once again.

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Two dogs, with their owners, meeting for the first time. Makia Minich

Thanks to the shelter-in-place orders enacted across the country, there’s already been a huge uptick in the number of dogs sheltered. For example, Kitty Block, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, told Wired that rates of fostering dogs have increased dramatically across the country. Some cities have experienced a 90% growth in adoptions. This is a very good trend. One that should continue after the quarantine orders are lifted.

No matter what stage of reopening your hometown is in, a foster dog will help you to socialize. The CDC notes that it’s fine to walk dogs with proper social distancing observed, which means it’s a great, safe way to get out and about. (Not to mention out in the sunshine, which is hugely beneficial for your health according to numerous studies.)

A Mayo Clinic video noting the health benefits of socializing. 

Socializing in this way—face to face—is extremely important for psychological health. Medical News Today, for example, notes that research has shown that “Social motivation and social contact can help to improve memory formation and recall and protects the brain from neurodegenerative diseases.” Conversely, the European Public Health Alliance has noted that “Feelings of loneliness and social isolation, heightened by the current public health crisis, can have severe health consequences for a number of socio-economic groups.”

Sheltering dogs not only helps people socialize, but often times improves the quality of their social interactions. According to a 2015 study published in the journal, PLoS One, for example, dog owners “were significantly more likely than owners of other types of pets to regard people whom they met through their pet as a friend.” In addition, a survey conducted by The American Kennel Club found that “54% of dog owners believe having their pet has boosted their confidence and made it easier for them to talk to strangers.”

And, of course, there are the psychological benefits of caring for a creature that can’t care for itself. The Mental Health Foundation in the UK, for example, says that “Caring for a pet… gives your day purpose and reward, and a sense of achievement.” The Foundation adds that caring for a pet “also helps you feel valuable and needed.”

Besides all of that, there’s also this fact: Having a dog is a lot of fun! They’re cute, playful, and most of them can’t stop smiling. And based on this writer’s anecdotal experience with a foster pup, life is markedly improved with one around. Why, here she is now, to brighten your day with her goofy derp face.

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The now-officially-adopted Gia with her bunny.  

What do you think about fostering a dog to help you survive quarantine and eventually ease back into normal life? Are you ready to run out and foster a dog ASAP, or would you prefer to keep canines out of your social life? Give us your thoughts in the comments!

Feature image: Jelly Dude