Covid: 'Pets listen to your troubles without judgement'

By Johanna Carr
BBC News Online

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image copyrightNicki McGuire
image captionMrs McGuire said Obie was the happiest and friendliest horse

Many people have found having an animal to look after and play with during the coronavirus pandemic to be a lifeline.

From helping to relieve the stress of a frontline job to providing comfort in times of illness, people have been praising their pets.

One woman, who has been self-isolating, told the BBC her son's dog had helped bring her from the "depths of despair".

Here four people describe the impact their pets have had on their lives during the pandemic.

'We saved each other'

image copyrightNicki McGuire
image captionNicki McGuire said her job in an animal and horse supplies store had been "full on" throughout lockdown

Nicki McGuire, from Kenton, near Exminster, Devon, said riding and taking care of Obie was "complete escapism", allowing her to forget everything else going on.

"He has a skin condition called sweet itch that we have managed to get under control," she said.

"I've lost four stone in weight so that he is more comfy when I ride him. I have also gone from pre-diabetic to normal blood sugars by losing weight.

"So Obie and I have saved each other really."

Mrs McGuire added: "Horses are empathetic.

"They understand human emotions, and know instantly when you've had a bad day. They listen to your troubles without judgement. Obie is exactly this.

"I often tell him things that I wouldn't dream of sharing with another person."

'He's been with me in my darkest moments'

image copyrightDenise Cooper
image captionDenise Cooper said she did not know what she would have done without Rocky

When Denise Cooper moved to Paignton with her husband George a year ago, she had no idea a pandemic would stop them seeing their five children who live in the London area for months at a time.

Luckily they had offered to look after their son's dog while he moved house and anticipated the arrival of their first grandchild.

"We were all alone and we are really grateful we had Rocky here with us," said Mrs Cooper, who has been shielding.

"In my darkest moments he has not left my side and brought me from the depths of despair.

"I don't know what we would have done without him."

'She's a delight'

image copyrightDebbz Thickitt
image captionDebbz Thickitt with her two and a half-year-old sprocker Piper

Debbz Thickitt, who works in the oncology department at Derriford Hospital, lives in Plymouth with partner Rob Plain and their sprocker spaniel Piper.

She said: "She's a very loving dog and I think she does know if things have been tense at work."

Miss Thickitt, who does radiotherapy planning, said her job could be challenging.

"The staff and patients are amazing and we're trying to keep as normal as we can," she said.

Miss Thickitt said Piper was a "delight" who was always so happy when she got home.

'He never judges'

image copyrightBecky Lovegrove
image captionBecky Lovegrove said Sidward seemed to understand how unwell she was while she recovered from sepsis

Becky Lovegrove, from Illogan, Cornwall, said her dog Sidward came to her nearly 10 years ago as a one-night emergency foster placement.

"He was going to be a bait dog and they rescued him just in time," she said.

"He walked through the door and I was just like 'you are not going anywhere'."

image copyrightBecky Lovegrove
image captionBecky Lovegrove said her dog Sidward John Picklefork was "just super company"

Dr Lovegrove, a musician and retired teacher, who lives alone, said having Sidward helped her during the pandemic, particularly when she returned home from hospital after contracting sepsis in November.

"He never judges," she said.

"I talk to him all the time and he just seems to listen and understand... he doesn't think any less of me if I am not feeling too good.

"I wouldn't be without him."

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