Pets provide companionship and help students cope with self-isolation during the pandemic

Nursing sophomore Danna Velasquez with her labradoodle, Jameson. Velasquez adopted Jameson in May, after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and said he has continued to help her cope emotionally even after self-isolation mandates are reduced.

Nursing sophomore Danna Velasquez first considered adopting a dog at the beginning of quarantine in March because she knew puppies need a lot of training and attention.

In May she finally got one, and it was love at first sight. The labradoodle, which she named Jameson, was sweet and intelligent, Velasquez said, and exactly what she needed during that time.

Jameson is still helping her emotionally, Velasquez said, even if she’s not in complete isolation anymore.

As a nursing student, the workload is intense and demands hard work, Velasquez said. And on days when she feels stressed and overwhelmed, Jameson will come and put his head on her leg to comfort her.

“Goldendoodles are super, like, ‘velcro-dogs,’” Velasquez said. “They like being around you all the time.”

For her, that was the opposite of a problem. Until Jameson had to go to puppy training school for two weeks, and Velasquez instantly felt more stressed.

“As soon as he was gone, I just felt, like, so overwhelmed and, like, even more stressed than I ever really felt,” Velasquez said. “He’s, like, almost like an emotional support animal.”

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 74% of people report mental health improvements from pet ownership, and it’s not just for anxiety and depression.

Pets also help with feelings of loneliness and isolation, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America stated, which are feelings many have faced throughout stay-at-home orders and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education sophomore Maddox Flores is responsible for handling social media and PR issues for the Campus Cat Coalition, a group at UTA that helps get local cats spayed, neutered and adopted.

The pandemic heavily affected the group, which previously depended on tabling to hand out information. In-person volunteering was also limited.

“It’s definitely been a lot harder to find people who want to adopt cats,” Flores said.

Flores herself has two cats, both of which she adopted from the Coalition. They once found a kitten with what looked like a broken leg and took him to the vet.

The leg turned out to be a birth defect, and Flores said she just had to adopt him. Newly-named Mashed Potatoes soon got a sibling when Flores adopted a second cat named Butter.

Even with two cats at home, Flores finds time to pet the campus cats, specifically Microwave, who’s probably the most famous one, she said.

After a big assignment or exam, Flores goes out to where Microwave is and just relaxes with him for a bit, calming down.

She’s seen many students who aren’t a part of the organization make their way over to Microwave, and she’s glad to see him getting the attention he likes.

“A lot of students have that kind of connection with that cat specifically because, I don’t know, college can be really, really stressful,” Flores said. “And I think that definitely he helps.”

Although she had her dogs for years before the COVID-19 pandemic, accounting junior Bianca Marquez said Caramel and Marsh are the reason the pandemic didn’t hit her as hard.

She’s always struggled with stress, Marquez said, and even when her parents or boyfriend aren’t with her, her dogs are.

“The reason that I got Caramel was because I struggled a lot with anxiety and doubting myself,” she said. “She played a big role in helping with my confidence and helping me be more sure of myself.”


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