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Everybody’s Getting Puppies, and It’s Actually Not a Terrible Idea
Mary Kate McGrath/McKenzie Cordell

One scroll through ye ole' Instagram or preferred social media vessel, and, between illustrations on social distancing and tips for washing your hands, you, like me, probably saw several new friendly faces: puppies.

No exaggeration, I saw at least four friends adopt or bring home a new pet over the weekend. Joyful faces cuddling up with new furry friends seemed strange at first. Maybe it was the uncannily sunny day in March. Or maybe it was the news chyron I envisioned ticking over the images: "COVID-19," "Quarantine," "Lockdown." Amid posts and stories of people still going out to bars or taking advantage of no-line, usually crowded restaurants, my first inclination was, "Puppies? Is this really the best idea?" And the more I thought more about it, the more I realized that, actually yes, bringing home a puppy in this terrifying moment, seems like a pretty great idea. 

My own boss, Mary Kate McGrath, Gallery Media Group's Chief Content Officer, did it. She brought home Ruby, a precious Golden Retriever furball. It wasn't necessarily a rash decision for the family as her kids had been asking for a "dog to hug" for the past year, and in the midst of this crisis, McGrath decided this was the time: "This moment has been hard for me like everyone else. I'm a Virgo. I run a business. I don't like pandemics and any lack of control. I do love joy and hugs. So, maybe it was the Italians singing from their balconies or the people stocking my grocery every night this week, but I wanted to do something that was just all about love. So we got Ruby. She pooped on our rug today, but I think overall she gets her mission."

And to be honest, the logistics of it makes sense. House training a puppy is a feat and requires lots of time and attention (you'll get there, Ruby). If you're crate training (which is a great idea), you need to be around so that you can create patterns and habits. So, if you are up for the challenge, have the means to provide for a pet and are mentally well enough to take care of another being, quarantining isn't actually terrible when it comes to puppies. In fact, it means time for you to bond and train. 

When I adopted my dog, I was unemployed. I had just moved to New York. I had no friends besides my boyfriend and a broken foot to boot (well, the boot was on the foot, ha). In a magical series of events, we wound up adopting my first pet ever, and this new four-legged creature became my purpose. Between job applications, the occasional interview and lots of unsolicited and unhelpful career advice, training my dog gave me something important to do. And after every failed interview, coming home to a wagging tail and screeches of unbridled joy at the sight of me, I knew having this dog in one of my darkest hours was a lifesaver. 

There's science behind the human-dog relationship, too. According to a Swedish study published in Scientific Reports, having a dog could actually help you live longer. Studies show they boost our self-confidence, they ease stress, they encourage us to be more active and they prevent loneliness.   

Still, psychotherapist, Satya Doyle Byock, isn't has gung-ho as me or McGrath. Byock understands the desire to get a puppy or adopt a dog right now, but she has concerns, "What about folks who didn’t feel they had the time for a dog before quarantine? They may very well not have the time or energy when we are no longer working from home. Naturally, the comfort and companionship is valuable right now, but I’m not advocating impulsive decision-making for anyone. This is a very fluid situation we’re in, and I think it’s going to be important for most folks to stay fluid."

Emotional scientist and psychotherapist Dr. Tracy Thomas is in the same camp, "As a dog lover and a dog mom, I believe that having a dog can bring an amazing amount of joy, connection and family bonding." But she warns of reactionary decision-making with long-term consequences, especially among emotionally sensitive people, "who can often make decisions more reactively and then face challenges they didn’t expect, which causes more emotional distress than was expected." Vicious cycle much? Instead, Dr. Thomas encourages those considering getting a puppy to pause, evaluate if the puppy fits their long-term family vision and then act—not react. 

So yeah, we can't tell you to get a puppy to cure your anxiety. If adding more chaos to your life in these uncertain times feels like the wrong idea, it probably is. Per Dr. Thomas, "When there is doubt that typically means ‘don’t.’” But if the circumstances are right, there's nothing like a puppy curling up in your lap for a little peace of mind.  
 

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