Johannesburg, 17 February21: COVID-19 hasn’t only impacted the daily lives of working families and school kids. Health and medical facilities have shut their doors to visitors to keep their patients and frontline healthcare workers safe, and this in turn has impacted the work that important non-profit organisations such as Paws 4 U do in the healthcare space.
Speak to a Paws 4 U volunteer and they will tell you that there are few things more fulfilling in life than a frail hand reaching out to stroke their dog’s fur, or the smile on the face of a young patient in an oncology ward when a visiting dog puts their head on the bed.
“Therapy dogs bring joy to people who are in need of love and companionship, whether they’re in a frail care centre, an orphanage or a hospital,” says Eileen Calvert, vice chair/PRO who has been involved with Paws 4 U for 17 years.
“We all know how much we love our pets,” says Llewellyn Sinclair, Business Unit Manager: Companion Animals at animal health company, Zoetis South Africa. “Organisations such as Paws 4 U bring emotional support and companionship to people who benefit from that connection and delight.”
The problem is that Paws 4 U volunteers haven’t been able to make in-person visits since COVID-19 reached South Africa’s shores. “We’ve felt the impact on the patients we visit, but there’s an incredible knock-on effect to their caregivers as well,” says Calvert.
“For example, at the Donald Gordon Academic Hospital, the nursing staff are working long hours, they haven’t had a break since March 2020, and they’re operating under extremely emotional conditions. Families and friends cannot visit the patients and children under their care, and they’re dealing with not only heightened loneliness, but a health crisis.
“I’ve heard stories of nurses walking down to the parking lot three, even four times a day to deliver the personal items to a family member of a patient who has passed away. They’re coping with this intense emotional burden alone, and then going home each evening to run their households as well,” says Calvert.
Showing appreciation and love for caregivers
Paws 4 U’s volunteers and their dogs cannot currently visit patients and alleviate some of the emotional burden of sole caregivers, but that doesn’t mean that Calvert and her team are stepping away from their roles.
“We work closely with Zoetis and this year we’re focusing on supporting the supporters. While we can’t physically enter the facilities we normally support, we can show our appreciation of the frontline workers who are there every day, giving so much of themselves for their patients.”
To show their love and support, Zoetis and Paws 4 U delivered 350 Valentine’s gifts to the nurses of Donald Gordon Academic Hospital on Tuesday, 16 February.
Animal and human health and wellness are bound to each other
Zoetis South Africa’s partnership with Paws 4 U is an important element in the global animal health company’s focus on the human-animal bond that the business supports and promotes.
“Zoetis is a leading advocate of the bond between humans and animals,” says Sinclair. “Internationally, Zoetis was the first company to be named Human-Animal Bond Certified by the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI).”
The unique certification program, which was jointly founded by the NAVC and HABRI in 2018, was designed to promote the benefits of the human-animal bond to strengthen client relationships, improve animal care and boost practice wellness.
One of Zoetis’ key objectives in 2021 is to champion a sustainable and healthy environment for the future. Within the Companion business unit, which focuses on pet health, ‘Zoetis Cares’ is a mantra that underpins this objective while promoting the human-animal bond.
“Paws 4 U is built on the foundation that animals contribute to our wellbeing as people,” says Sinclair. “We rely on our feline and canine companions for love and friendship and they rely on us to look after their health from a young age, firstly because we share our personal spaces with them and so their health affects our own, and secondly because when you look after your companions from kitten or puppy, they live longer and healthier lives. “Paws 4 U understands this, promotes it, and takes that companionship into the most heart-wrenching places. It’s an honour to support the organisation’s volunteers and animals.”
Zoetis donates a percentage of each sale of its Simparica Flea and Tick Protection for Dogs to Paws 4 U. This year, these funds will be used to support health workers in select institutions that Paws 4 U supports until volunteers are able to bring their dogs back into hospital wards and orphanages.
“We’re all suffering from COVID fatigue, but we’re also constantly meeting people who want to help but don’t know where to begin,” says Calvert. “We encourage animal lovers to invest in the health of their dogs with Simparica, which in turn supports our animals and volunteers.”