When Cindi Hindman started sponsoring Oscar, a German Shepherd and Labrador Retriever puppy, in September, he was fearful and hypervigilant. He paced the house, unable to settle down, and showed little interest in affection.
Less than 48 hours after being at her home in Frederick, Md., Oscar played with toys, snuggled down on the couch, and slept peacefully in his box.
"It was very rewarding to see how quickly a little love and understanding got him around," said Ms. Hindman. "It is amazing to me how cute and loving these dogs are that come out of animal shelters and want to please."
Oscar is the fourth dog Ms. Hindman has groomed during the coronavirus pandemic. Molly, an English mixture of hands; a lab mix puppy named Sully; and Rocky, a black Labrador retriever, also temporarily teamed up with Ms. Hindman before being admitted to their "furry" homes.
"I had considered promoting something before, but it was difficult to find the time and make the commitment," she told Medical Daily. "The pandemic gave me the opportunity to volunteer for a rescue on site."
The pandemic sparked record-breaking interest in caring for shelter animals.
The Best Friends Animal Society, the largest nokilling shelter in the United States, has seen an unprecedented interest in funding. Between March and May, their facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, placed 670 pets in nursing homes, compared to just 209 in the same period in 2019; and 145 pets from their Atlanta facility went to nursing homes during quarantine, compared with 40 pets last year.
"In times of crisis, people seek comfort and ways to help," said Julie Castle, executive director of Best Friends Animal Society. "Grooming helps people feel comfortable and is helping local animal shelters by reducing the number of pets they have to groom on a daily basis."
The environment of the shelter can be stressful for dogs and cats. Care helps animals that are scared in animal shelters. Injured or sick animals in need of additional care benefit from a home environment, while foster families help save lives when the shelters are full.
Foster families also benefit. Pets offer myriad health benefits, from lower blood pressure and cholesterol to less loneliness and more exercise, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The impact was particularly profound during the pandemic. New research found that sharing a home with a pet provides a buffer against the negative psychological effects of pandemic lockdown.
"Pet companionship helps people feel calmer and more secure when the news from the outside world is depressing," said Ms. Castle.
She hopes the effects will be long-lasting. The number of animal adoptions also increased significantly during COVID-19. Foster families have worked hard to introduce their foster animals to potential adopters through social media and virtual meet and greet events to ensure that adoptable pets are not returned to shelters.
For Ms. Hindman, who spends more time playing in the yard and walking around her neighborhood with her four-legged companions, grooming has been a worthwhile way to spend her time in quarantine during COVID-19.
"I was delighted to see how adaptable these dogs are," she said. "There is [the] satisfaction [the] satisfaction in knowing that I have done something good for the dogs and [and] having a sense of purpose has been very good for my sanity."