Pets Are Furry Happiness Pills

Studies show that the life expectancy of animal owners is longer than for pet-less people.


Humane Society

Photo: Getty Images


When the Hawaiian Humane Society put out a plea for help during the pandemic, local households took more than 450 animals into emergency foster care—and ended up adopting nearly a third of them. In fact, about 1 in 5 U.S. households acquired a cat or dog during this time, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. And why not? Studies show that the life expectancy of pet owners is longer than for pet-less people—no doubt in part because furry companions help boost our happiness hormones.


Loren Lasher, a volunteer with Hawai‘i Fido, which specializes in service and therapy dogs, sees this every time he takes Zoe and Hannah to visit different facilities. Just ask Mary at Pohai Nani, where play sessions with senior residents are followed by individual meet-and-greets. She asked for a canine hug, Lasher says, and “Hannah would lay her head along Mary’s chest. Mary would hug and Hannah would snuggle close, at times slipping in a kiss, which would always get a smile and laugh.” It goes both ways: The visits, Lasher says, are “a major joy in my life.”


Micah and Crystal Kim of Hawai‘i Kai had a more specific goal in looking for a canine companion. Their 9-year-old son had a mild tic disorder, and Crystal read that dogs could sometimes help by reducing anxiety and stress. Enter Oreo, a jubilant Jack Russell terrier mix. “We haven’t noticed a huge difference with his tics,” Crystal says, “but we notice that he just loves to sit and talk to her, and it’s funny. It’s like he’s just talking to a friend.” Oreo turned out to be an ideal companion for Crystal, too, on long walks. Says Micah, “She’s our dog daughter. She makes everyone here pretty happy.”



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