Ewan Kennedy and his corgi Gracie enjoy time together at Nose Creek Park in Airdrie on Thursday, May 19, 2022. Kennedy is a Journalism student at SAIT. (Photo by Robin Contos/The Emery Weal)

By Pamela Shah and Robin Contos

Our cherished animal companions remain the chosen (and most adorable) combatants against mental health issues.

Depression, anxiety, and PTSD in Canadian adults has risen 21 per cent since 2020, especially in young adults, according to Statistics Canada.

The benefits that come with owning a pet are not to be underestimated. Pets offer a wide variety of perks, including lower blood pressure, decreased stress, and a boost in mindfulness according to an NIH report.

Furthermore, owning a pet comes with a wide variety of responsibilities, which can be a welcome distraction for pet-owners’ daily stresses. 

“I struggle a lot with depression, and it helps knowing that I have to survive to make sure they survive,” said Tuesday Sanderman, a journalism student at SAIT.  

“When I get really low, and struggle to get out of bed, I start by doing tasks for them first. I’ll give them extra treats, clean their litter boxes, play with them a bit, and then after that, I start to feel a little better because I did something productive.” 

Pets are also a strong aid for anyone struggling with mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Sanderman adopted their first cat, Gus, two years ago, and their second cat, Jack, in 2021. Gus is a timid, yet sweet, tuxedo cat while Jack is an energetic orange tabby who loves going for walks outside. 

Sanderman spends a lot of their downtime with their two cats. Whether it is writing, playing video games, or snuggling in bed and watching a show together, the trio enjoy their quality time together.

Student Pet Ownership

Ewan Kennedy, another journalism student, and the owner of a Corgi named Gracie, also stated that having a pet has been a positive distraction from stress. 

“I take [Gracie] to see her boyfriend, a little Scotty, across the park,” says Kennedy. 

One of Kennedy’s favourite things to do with Gracie is swimming. The pair love to go swimming together, especially at Kennedy’s cabin in British Columbia.

Gracie’s favorite treats are dog bones and her favorite game to play is frisbee. Kennedy has mentioned that despite Gracie’s stubborn and shy personality, she is very attentive, and checks on him often when he is busy with school work.

Sanderman and Kennedy recommend adopting pets, especially to students, if they have not already.  

Most Canadians are pet owners according to a survey from Ababcus data, at 56 per cent.

Narrative Research has stated that 18 per cent of all Canadian pet-owners today have adopted an animal during the pandemic, with a majority of owners being between the ages of 18 and 20-years-old.

“Yeah, [Gracie’s] been a very good help especially during COVID,” said Kennedy.

Ewan Kennedy and his corgi Gracie enjoy time together at Nose Creek Park in Airdrie on Thursday, May 19, 2022. Kennedy is a Journalism student at SAIT. (Photo by Robin Contos/The Emery Weal)

Pamela Shah is a first-year journalism student with bachelor’s and master’s degree in history. Shah has lived in Denmark for three years and Germany for six months. You can find her on Instagram @p_monique_.

Robin Contos is a first-year journalism student who takes a keen interest in animals and the environment. Robin wants to be active in environmental journalism after they’ve finished school. You can follow them on Instagram: @red_robin_photography 

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