A new way to meet that furry friend: Pets Together lets people and animals visit, virtually
BANGALL — In times of stress, people often look for comfort with their family or friends. During this time of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, finding such comfort might not possible, leaving many feeling abandoned and lonely.
Social isolation is considered by public health officials to be a public health threat; individuals who lack a sense of belonging and over long periods of time show a 29% higher mortality rate than those who aren’t lonely.
One way to deal with the coronavirus blues comes from Animal Farm Foundation (AFF), which is a national nonprofit that “trains pit bull dogs to assist people with disabilities,” according to its website, www.animalfarmfoundation.org. It also trains pit bulls for police service and offers dogs for adoption out of its Bangall location.
AFF is now offering Pets Together, a free virtual program that allows people to visit with an animal of one’s choice: dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits, goats and yes, even cows.
Kim Wolf, a master of public health and master of social work candidate at the University of Georgia, worked with AFF Executive Director Stacey Coleman to create Pets Together. The program allows those who are not able to have a pet of their own to visit with some of the AFF’s animals, and their keepers. Most people favor visiting with the farm’s dogs and cats, though many love to watch the antics of the baby goats. For others, larger farm animals such as horses or cows, or smaller ones such as chickens, ducks or goats, reminds them of earlier times, different times, perhaps of a former life on a farm.
“We gave this program its own identity as we hope that it will endure even after this time of social distancing is over,” states the Pets Together website. “Feelings of isolation and loneliness existed before COVID-19 and will still exist after. We’ll always be here to help.”
The program is free and easy to access; go to www.petstogether.org. There one will find a video introduction to the program and the animals, as well as a calendar to book an online visit with one’s choice of animal. It’s easy, and by watching the introduction viewers can become familiar with the format and learn what to expect from their virtual visit. Look for Shenanigan the goat; Groot and Happy, a dog and cat best friend duo; Ruckus and Kayla, a dog team; and many other wonderful animals to choose from.