In this dark year, pets have brightened the lives of both their families and strangers. The purrs of cats in laps and wagging tails of dogs have brought comfort to millions of Americans having to social distance from other people.
Because therapy animal handlers believe so strongly in the healing power of pets, in pre-pandemic times they volunteer to take their dogs and cats to hospitals, schools, assisted living facilities, airports, funeral homes, dentist offices and other places where animals can help reduce stress and offer support. For the nonprofit Pet Partners alone, around 13,000 therapy animal teams make more than 3 million visits each year in communities across the country.
So when the coronavirus pandemic shut down most in-person visits, therapy animal teams didn’t give up. They just got creative.
“It has been an unusual circumstance where what is best for people’s health during a pandemic (isolating to stay safe) is in direct conflict with how we operate to bring the benefits of therapy animals to people, and visiting in person hasn’t been an option in most places,” Elisabeth Van Every, senior communications specialist at Pet Partners, told TODAY in an email. “But now more than ever people need joy, comfort, and uplifting, and these wonderful therapy animals and their handlers have found new ways to bring the power of pets to those in need.”
Here are some of the special ways therapy animal teams managed to spread cheer this year.
They wagged from outside windows at assisted living facilities.
They paraded outside of hospitals for nurses and doctors.
They Zoomed, of course.
They put their feline curiosity to good use outside of hospitals.
They “cloned” themselves.
They offered their bellies to hospital staff working tirelessly during the pandemic.
They smiled from decorated cars at residents in senior living communities.
They showed gratitude to our men and women in uniform.
They proved that our precious pets always give 100%.
Here’s to in-person visits and brighter days in 2021!