- Dog ownership has increased since the start of the pandemic.
- Significant health benefits are associated with pet ownership.
- Exposure to animals is associated with a reduction in loneliness, a major problem during the pandemic.
For those in Bachelor Nation who watched Bachelorette lead Rachel finally give villain Hayden Markowitz the boot on Monday evening, the surprise at the end of the episode may have been less about him being sent home and more about his declaration that he hoped she would find the unconditional love he had found—and was eagerly returning home to—with his dog, Rambo.
While there was plenty about this particular contestant to criticize, I can’t help but feel defensive of the specific mocking he has gotten on social media regarding his dedication to his dog. One headline in the aftermath of this week’s episode, for instance, was entitled, “'Bachelorette’ Contestant Couldn’t Save Himself with Dying Dog Story…” (Bjornson, 2022).
Dog ownership has become more appealing over the last three years
Dog ownership has significantly increased since the start of the pandemic. Recent numbers suggest that nearly 1 in 5 American households adopted a pet during the pandemic (Bogage, 2022). Pre-pandemic numbers reportedly estimated that 68 percent of households in the U.S. had a pet (“The Power of Pets,” 2018).
Many newly-minted dog owners who were working remotely when they first got their dogs, or their "pandemic pups," have confronted the dilemma of how to transition their companions to a more regular out-of-the-house work schedule as they filter back into their workspaces. Despite rising inflation, we dog owners have also spent billions of dollars on our pets—from toys to food to high-end treats to pampering and overnight boarding (Bogage, 2022).
As a dedicated—some might say obsessive—dog owner, I can share that the companionship of my pup has served as a significant balm against the stress of the last several years.
Indeed, research from a partnership between the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Mars Corporation’s WALTHAM Center for Pet Nutrition reports that possible health benefits from exposure to animals include reduced blood pressure, reduced loneliness, a boost in mood, and increased feelings of social support (“The Power of Pets,” 2018). The potential to lessen loneliness is particularly significant given that scholarship suggests loneliness has become amplified since the pandemic. Loneliness is also a variable associated with negative health outcomes for older individuals, including increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
My dog has accompanied me on all my travels this summer, as I have worked remotely and taught summer sessions. In fact, when I teach virtual sessions, even for sections that may not be as participatory, there is always the inevitable spike in engagement in the chat by my students when my dog makes his presence known on camera. I have lost count of how many students have sent me emails at the end of the semester wishing me well and thanking me for the class before also bidding adieu to Arrow. His presence when I teach remotely has had an unanticipated positive impact in enabling me to bond with my students and offer a moment of joy during our virtual sessions.
All of this to say that there is much to judge the recent Bachelorette reject on—for those who don’t regularly watch, he was caught on camera referring to both leads with a vulgarity—but let’s leave him alone when it comes to his attachment to his dog. After all, the bond between an owner and their dog is sacrosanct.
Copyright Azadeh Aalai 2022
Bjornson, G. (2022, August 2). ‘Bachelorette’ Contestant Couldn’t Save Himself with Dying Dog Story After Calling Gabby a ‘B*tch’. Decider: What to Watch. Retrieved on August 3, 2022, from: https://decider.com/2022/08/02/bachelorette-contestant-hayden-sent-home…
Bogage, J. (2022, January 7). Americans adopted millions of dogs during the pandemic. Now what do we do with them? The Washington Post: Economy. Retrieved on August 3, 2022 from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/01/07/covid-dogs-return-to…
“The Power of Pets: Health Benefits of Human-Animal Interactions.” (2018, February). NIH: News in Health. Retrieved on August 3, 2022 from: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/02/power-pets