Today democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders touched down in Flagstaff, Arizona to meet with voters and make the case for his presidency. He spoke with Arizona press about the necessity of destroying ISIS and held court with younger voters. Sanders also made a beeline for a puppy midterm de-stress session. If there is anyone who needs a mental breather via a ball of fluff, it’s probably a 2016 presidential candidate mid-campaign.
While it may seem silly, the health benefits of having dogs around are very real. Scientific studies since the 1980s have demonstrated that pets are capable of inspiring medical benefits like lowering blood pressure and improving recovery time for heart disease. In 1991 a psychology study from the State University of New York even found that women were more comforted by a dog than their friends in stressful situations.
A 2008 study conducted by researchers from the Virginia Commonwealth University compared the stress levels of subjects who were asked to bring their dogs to work every other day with people who did not bring dogs at all. They found that the group with dogs at work were significantly less stressed.
“If people feel stress in the workplace, typically research shows that’s linked to various behavioral outcomes — lower job performance, poor decision making, work accidents and aggressive behavior,” lead study author Randolph Baker told Time. “Having animals around can literally be a buffer these outcomes and may help individuals cope much more effectively with situations that can cause stress in the workplace.”
A different study, published in 2012 in the Journal of Research in Personality, asked people to list their goals and their likelihood of achieving them. The researchers found that when the subject’s pet dogs were presented, they were much more confident that they could achieve their goals. This sort of research no doubt underlines why so many universities are now allowing dogs on campus during stressful times like midterms. Some universities, such as Harvard and Yale, even have a dog on campus full-time. For example, Cooper — a Shih-Tzu who has a blog and a signature scarf — is a regular fixture for stressed students in the Harvard library.
Seemingly the only downside to pets being used for emotional needs is the proliferation of animals being registered as emotional companions, their owners hoping to trick the system and get their lapdogs into restaurants. While emotional-support card bearing animals technically aren’t given special privileges, thousands of people every year pay hundreds of dollars to have their pets registered on an emotional support data base. While legally what they’re doing is wrong, science does support any argument that having a pet around makes a human happier.