I am so excited to talk about an organization a friend of mine in the Atlanta area turned me onto this week!
It’s called Pets Together, a program run through the Animal Farm Foundation, which offers several programs in service of both dogs and people. I am certain I will be revisiting their site many times to bring you information about how we can be great advocates for our dogs, combat breed discrimination, how dogs help those incarcerated, the benefits of service dogs, and more.
But for today my focus is on Pets Together. Over the years it’s become more popular to bring animals — usually dogs, though not exclusively — to nursing homes, children’s hospitals, and other similar places where people are in need of comfort and companionship.
Pet visits reduce anxiety, stir up happy memories, lower heart rate, reduce depression, and add a feeling of companionship, which is vital, particularly for people in isolation. Plus, upcoming animal visits give people something to look forward to.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has all but put a stop to many of these programs. At Pets Together, they got creative and embraced technology to give people and animals a way to still visit safely. They use video call services like Zoom and Skype.
From the sample pictures and videos I watched, volunteers have their dogs, cats, cows, goats — really any variety of pet — on video with them. Not always do animals actually look into the camera, but that’s part of the charm. We enjoy watching the little surprises. It makes us chuckle, and isn’t that what we’re all looking for?
In one of the video clips, a young man would play the harmonica, and his dog would “sing along” to it. In another, a young woman showed us one of her dog’s tricks.
Because these get-togethers aren’t in person, pets don’t need to be trained therapy animals. There’s no liability to be concerned with. It truly is solely about bringing a bit of joy to people who are otherwise pretty isolated at the moment. Plus, virtual visits open the door to a larger variety of animals as well as make volunteer opportunities more accessible for people who want to participate with their own pets.
Additionally, these visits are free. Pets Together is a nonprofit program, but of course they accept donations so they can keep this, and other wonderful programs on their larger site — Animal Rescue Foundation — running.
If you are interested in more information, want to volunteer with your own pet, or donate, please visit the Pets Together volunteer page and fill out an application.
In the meantime, tell me how animals have improved your own life, or what you’ve witnessed for others you care about. Drop a comment, come visit our community on Facebook, or even better — do both — and we love pictures!