TORRINGTON – A recent survey by Colorado State University research Lori Kogan found having a pet had positive effects during the novel coronavirus.
Kogan, a psychologist and clinical science professor at CSU, wanted to know the impact pets had on people’s lives in general and their emotional health, according to a report on the website medicalxpress.com. Her results showed two-thirds of people who reported having dogs and cats as part of the families reported reduced loneliness. Almost half said pets helped them not be overwhelmed and over-stressed as the illness makes its continued way across the world, the report said.
“The findings certainly validated what I had been hearing from people,” Kogan was quoted at medicalxpress.com. “Pets help through companionship, leading to a decrease in anxiety, loneliness and depression.”
Taking care of not only the physical needs of people’s critters brought the Rev. Bruce McBurney, pastor of First Wyoming Presbyterian Church in Torrington and Community Presbyterian in Lingle, out on the church lawn in Torrington with several church members Saturday for a special Blessing of the Animals.
Traditionally associated with the annual Feast of St. Francis – which will be Oct. 4 this year – the Blessing of the Animals gives pet parents a sort of peace of mind and a sense of security for their animals, McBurney said.
“I think during the pandemic, we kind of came to the realization our pets are extremely important to us,” McBurney, a pet parent himself, said. “We thought, you know what, it’s close to the fair, folks are going to be thinking about animals, so let’s just do this then.
“I’m not sure a lot of planning went into this,” he said. “We’re just flying by the seat of our pants. We thought, ‘Let’s do a Blessing of the Animals.’ So, here we are.”
The annual Blessing of the Animals is closely associated with St. Francis of Assisi, the monk who lived about 800 years ago and was the founder of the Franciscan order. He had a special affinity for all animals, being the first to suggest human beings were just one of God’s creations and are blessed in God’s eye. St. Francis today is the patron saint of animals and the environment.
McBurney agreed with the sentiment: “I think Christianity is moving in a more progressive direction toward realizing our roots, how we’re all part of the same creation. I think folks are becoming more open to the idea that, yes, our animals are created as well as we are, and in fact we are all holy.”
Both McBurney and Tracy Coffelt, a volunteer at Waggin’ Tails Animal Shelter and a member of First Wyoming Presbyterian, came to help out at the blessing with her furry companion, Harley. In addition to making people aware Waggin’ Tails is around and has animals available for adoption, Coffelt hoped the event would bring people closer together.
“I think it’s a bonding and fellowship situation for all of our people, especially in this time when there’s so much going on in our world and in our country that’s unknown to us,” Coffelt said. “With their animals who are such big parts of the families, I think it’s important to them, as well.
“They offer great companionship,” she said. “People do like their animals and want to have animals if they’re able to.”
As CSU’s Kogan found in her survey, particularly in the current world environment, that companionship can be vital to people’s health, mentally, physically and spiritually. Blessing their pets can provide people a deeper sense of security for their safety and health, McBurney said.
And the event was a good step toward expanding a sense of partnership as communities are forced to respond to COVID-19 in ways that can separate them, McBurney said. Realizing they’re not alone can also help people, he said.
“I hope they’ll get a sense of community, that there are other people in town who have pets or have animals they want to have a blessing for,” he said. “Maybe they’ll meet folks who have similar animals and say, ‘I’m not the only one in town who has a gerbil or what have you.’
“In our isolation, in our quarantine, we find ourselves stuck at the house mostly. Folks have been suffering for need of a companion,” McBurney said. “We who have pets have realized how important they are – to be with you, somebody you can talk to. This is an opportunity to appreciate the animals in our lives.”