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Pets keep spirits high in pandemic

James MacSmith, Sarah Perillo, August 17, 2021 7:00PM News Corp Australia Network

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Pebbles the cavoodle and Onni the parrot are great friends and hang out together. Picture: Nicki Connolly. media_cameraPebbles the cavoodle and Onni the parrot are great friends and hang out together. Picture: Nicki Connolly.

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A daily dose of “unconditional* love” from the family pet is giving owners a big boost during these challenging times, a new study has revealed.

According to the survey of 1000 dog owners on the link between human happiness and canine* health, Australian dog owners are overwhelmingly dependent on the welfare of their pets.

The ZamiPet study found more than nine out of 10 dog owners say their pet makes them happier, believe their dog supports their mental health and agree their dog makes them healthier.

Given the significant rise in pet ownership during the Covid-19 pandemic, these findings show the potential for a positive effect on the mental health of our communities.

Happy child play with family pet - labrador puppy media_cameraMany families have welcomed a new pet since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and a new survey reveals people are feeling the positive effects of all the smooches from their pooches. Picture: iStock.

Australian veterinary surgeon and Head Vet at ZamiPet Dr Andrew McKay said the strong bond that dogs create with their owners is behind this emotional attachment*.

Previous research has also found that interactions between humans and canines can cause our brains to release the “bonding” hormone* Oxytocin*.

“It’s the unconditional love that dogs give you,” Dr McKay said. “I see that when my own kids are in the company of our dog, or how he can make me feel better when I’m feeling a bit down. This study highlights (the) correlation* between a happy pet and a happy person.”

Likewise, when pets are unwell, that has a negative impact on their owners, with 92 per cent of respondents admitting they are emotionally impacted when their dog is sick.

“Many of us have experienced the stress and upset of a sick or injured pet – it impacts our mood, our mental health and our happiness,” Dr McKay said.

The study also found that 97 per cent of Australian dog owners would be devastated* if anything happened to their pet, with 55 per cent of owners are “extremely concerned” for the dog’s happiness, demeanour and life expectancy.

Dr McKay said the research “confirms what pet lovers have always known – our health and happiness are heavily influenced by our pet’s own health and happiness.”

Pets and Owners Together in Lockdown media_cameraFrom left, Natalie Todeschini and Chanelle Harman with their dog Albus Dumbledog. Picture: Wayne Taylor.

For Chanelle Harman and Natalie Todeschini, their three-year-old Whippet/Kelpie/Jack Russell cross Albus Dumbledog “is everything”.

“I had dogs growing up and I have always loved that companionship,” Ms Harman said. “We made sure we got a dog that would fit into our lifestyle and very quickly he became our world. He is an equal member of our family. I can’t imagine a life without him. When he’s not here, the house feels like it has lost its soul.” 

One inseparable pair of unusual friends has also provided great happiness and lots of laughs to their owners. Pebbles, a 16-month-old cavoodle, and Onni, a one-year-old parrot, have been fond of each other since the day they met.

Owner Felicia Welstead said the two share a “love-hate relationship”.

“When Pebbles is having a nap on the couch, Onni will often try to snuggle in,” she said. “Onni will start grooming her like she does with her own feathers – but I don’t think she realises her beak is so sharp. It’s very funny to see.”

Dog and Bird Friends media_cameraPebbles the cavoodle and Onni the parrot have kept their humans in good cheer throughout the Covid-19 crisis. Picture: Nicki Connolly.

Ms Welstead said the two have very different personalities.

“Pebbles is friendly, gentle and patient with Onni,” she said. “Onni, on the other hand, is confident and bossy – she doesn’t let Pebbles get away with much. Onni definitely rules the house.

“In the mornings she will fly over and pick at our cornflakes or toast. She’s very clever.”

Ms Welstead said the family couldn’t have gotten through the pandemic without the two animals.

“They have definitely saved us through Covid,” she said. “All of their crazy antics have provided happiness and light during lockdown. Although we don’t get a moment of peace, it’s great having them around and watching them interact.”

GLOSSARY

  • unconditional: unlimited, unrestricted, no conditions
  • canine: relating to a dog or dogs
  • attachment: affection, fondness, close feelings
  • hormone: chemical substance that acts like a messenger in the body
  • Oxytocin: hormone associated with childbirth, trust, empathy and connection
  • correlation: connection between two or more things
  • devastated: severe shock, grief and upset

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What proportion of owners in the survey said their dog makes them happier?
  2. What is the bonding hormone called?
  3. Albus Dumbledog is a cross of which dog breeds?
  4. What does Onni the parrot like to pick at in the mornings?
  5. How old is Pebbles the cavoodle?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Pet Petition
As a whole class, survey how many students have a pet dog and how many do not.

For the students who do not have a pet, write up a petition to give their families about all the reasons why they should get a family dog or other pet.

Write a short letter addressed to the parents stating the top five reasons why every family needs a dog.

The students without a family dog can choose which letter is most likely to convince their parents to buy a dog and take it home for discussion!

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social; Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Think of a funny story about your pets and what they do, or others you’ve seen, and share with two or three of your classmates sitting close to you. What do your pets mean to you and what happiness do they bring to your life?

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social; Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Adjectives
An adjective is a describing word. They are often found describing a noun. To start with look at the words before the nouns. Search for all the adjectives you can find in the article

Did you find any repeat adjectives or are they all different?

Extension:
Pick three of your favourite adjectives from the text and put them in your own sentences to show other ways to use them.

Have you used any in your writing?

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