Wellness

I get by with a little help from my pets (and other animals)

Jessica Desamero
Jan. 6, 2022

First thing in the morning, I let my dog Muffin and my cat Mochi outside and into the backyard. They wander about and do their business. Often, Muffin looks up the tall tree for squirrels and gets excited when she sees one. Eventually, I say, “Look, Muffin, there’s Mochi!” and she runs to my cat. They run after each other back and forth across the yard. My dog wags her tail, and my cat gets vocal. It is a nice start to the day.

Jessica Desamero
Muffin the dog and Mochi the cat frolic in the author’s backyard.

Over the seasons, I see them do funny things outside. In the spring, when the bushes are full of leaves, Mochi jumps into a bush to hide and then jumps out and surprises Muffin. In late fall, when the leaves have all fallen, Mochi sometimes runs across the yard and straight up the tree and then comes back down quickly. It’s fun to see how high he can go. He also leaps into leafless bushes, closes his eyes, and rubs his face among the twigs. While he does this, Muffin just stares in confusion, which adds to the silliness. I love it when they play in the snow in the winter. They can’t stay long because it’s cold, but in the short time they’re allowed out, they love it and make the most of it.

Watching my pets play and get into their backyard antics brings joy to my mornings. I used to check my email or social media first thing in the morning. For the sake of my mental health, I started to avoid my phone and instead went straight to taking my pets out. This helps me have calmer mornings.

My pets also help with my headaches and stress. Since the pandemic began, I have been and continue to be more prone to chronic headaches. And these days, my stress levels are high from trying to balance teaching, research, thesis writing and science writing. I feel a general anxiety and sadness from still being in a pandemic. But my pets make me feel a little better.

Watching them play makes me happy and calms me down when I feel overwhelmed. What brings me extra comfort is petting them. My dog likes when I rub her belly; my cat purrs loudly when I stroke him. I sometimes hug Muffin. She can sense when I’m sad, and she gets sad too. She looks at me, comes closer to me and licks me to try to make me feel better. I admire her empathy.

On the weekends, especially when I’m feeling down but don’t want to associate with anyone human, I take Muffin to the park to walk her. The ambience of being outdoors with only my dog helps clear my head. In those times, my dog is all the company I need.

During our morning playdates and walks at various parks, I started noticing the behavior of other animals. From discovering the sound that a squirrel makes, hearing all the distinct bird songs and seeing a woodpecker pecking at a tree live for the first time to anticipating the hatching of a swan’s eggs and awaiting the baby chick family, it was all so exciting. I already loved animals, but I’ve grown to appreciate them even more.

My cat and dog have helped me so much throughout this pandemic in many ways. They may need me, but I also need them, and I don’t know what I would do without them.

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Jessica Desamero

Jessica Desamero is a graduate student in the City University of New York’s biochemistry Ph.D. program and volunteers with two science outreach organizations, BioBus and World Science Festival.

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