Karen Brescia, 53, with Max, 2 (Mountain Home, Idaho)
Every day you need something positive to lift your spirits. Our two Maine coon cats definitely are a big part of the positive thing. My wonderful sons grew up and moved away, but my pets are definitely like children. When they love you, when they look you in the eyes, it’s like they look right into your soul.
PHOTO BY: Lauren Pond
Elise Robinson, 50, with Mithu, about 42 (Columbus, Ohio)
When I was 26, I started working for a vet clinic. This yellow-naped Amazon parrot lived there, and after 19 years she came to live with me. Now that everything is so uncertain, she’s nice to come home to. She wants to be with you, like she would with a mate in the wild. My husband and I have 17 birds, and I love them all. None of my other birds loves me, though. It’s rewarding to have one that cares.
PHOTO BY: Andy Anderson
Andie Day, 67, with Handsome, early 20s (Boise, Idaho)
I always had horses, and eventually my kids rode with me. Then my grandkids. Handsome worked as a pack-string mule at a dude ranch. They retired him, and I took him. I work at a retirement village. When I’m worn out at the end of the day, I see Handsome. When I drive in, he goes, “Hee-haw.” Big ol’ wild bray. It makes me feel welcomed.
I admire his honesty; he’s upfront with what he’s feeling.
PHOTO BY: Gregg Segal
Christian Sariol, 49, with Abby, about 5 (Valyermo, California)
Pigs are smart, but not like dogs. It’s more like they’re enlightened. We’ve got two here at Angeles Crest Creamery that we rescued. When I’m anxious, they can sense it. They back away. So I have to apologize to them. It’s crazy, but they’ve helped me to be a better human being.
PHOTO BY: Gregg Segal
Joel Almquist, 50, with Cheeky, about 8 (Phelan, California)
We’ve got more than 200 animals at Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary and Cheeky, one of the capuchin monkeys, is one of the special ones — constantly trying to make you laugh. During this whole COVID thing, the lack of being able to pay for bills is a little stressful for me. People can’t come in to visit, and it’s stressful for the animals, too. They enjoy seeing people. Just being together helps us all out.
PHOTO BY: PETER FRANK EDWARDS
Cathy C. Bennett, 64, with Harley, 11 (Charleston, South Carolina)
I’m the therapy-dog coordinator for a hospital, and my two goldendoodles are certified. They haven’t been doing therapy since the pandemic, but life would be much lonelier if I did not have them. My husband and I have lost dear friends to the illness, and the dogs have been a source of comfort, not only to us but to other people.
PHOTO BY: Gregg Segal
Samantha Kirkeby, 55, with Chupacabra, 13 (Burbank, California)
The Andalusian breed and the Spanish horses have been my absolute passion for about 25 years. They look spirited, but they’re super noble, super gentle. I feel very blessed to have the ability to ride on the trails during the pandemic. For a brief and precious time, I feel at peace. My horses have always been my sanctuary.
PHOTO BY: Arielle Bader
Bob Bader, 62, with Penny, 1 (Tampa, Florida)
We have two cats, and we were worried about introducing the dog with the cats. Now they all get along fine. All of a sudden, pets have 24-7 companionship. She wants to play a lot, and we’ve met all our neighbors because she’s so sociable. Our lives revolve around Penny sometimes, it seems. It’s unprecedented times for us, but I think the dogs will look back on this as their glory days.
PHOTO BY: Rory Doyle
Robin Webb, 63, left, with Pups, about 4; Jimmy Webb, 66, with Penny, 14 weeks (Cleveland, Mississippi)
Jimmy came to live with me and Pups two years ago. Brought a 12-year-old dachshund who was the love of our lives until she passed away in December. And then my mother died the next day. There was this big sense of loss for all of us. So we decided Pups needed a little sister. Jimmy and I feel extremely blessed that we’re together in this pandemic — not alone as we were for many years. Now we have the opportunity to create a family with two dogs and the two of us.
PHOTO BY: Brinson + Banks
Teresa Apollo, 58, with Roxy, about 8, and a foster pup with no name, about 2 (Los Angeles, California)
Though I do dog day care and boarding, I don’t have a lot of my clients’ dogs over now. So I decided to foster, because I have time and space. I’m the pack leader. I get a lot of fulfillment having all this social interaction with the dogs when I’m not having that with people. Dogs are very relational, and they read our energy well. So it’s kept me mindful that my energy, and my state of mind, is calm and confident around my dogs so they feel protected at all times. They don’t know a pandemic’s going on; they’re just living their lives. If I’m running around in fear, it’s going to affect my dogs. I feel like I’ve had to be strong for them.
PHOTO BY: Amy Shroads
Patrick Shroads, 49, with Lancelot, 6 (Bethesda, Maryland)
We were a two-cat household until our cat Barnaby died suddenly this past spring. My wife and I have a 13-year-old son and it was his first experience with loss. Thankfully, Lancelot is friendly. As long as you don’t touch his belly, he’s super chill. It’s always easier to have pets — good times or bad. To have a little animal that you can reach down and tickle. Or if you’re sad, they walk over to you. Whether they mean anything by it or not, you can convince yourself, Oh, he gets me.
PHOTO BY: Courtesy Jayme Gershon
Jayme Gershen, 32, with Krizo, 4 (Miami, Florida)
At the end of January, my friend Ajhanou passed away at age 56, and she left me her dog. Then came quarantine. I went from working all the time as a photographer and filmmaker to uncertainty about when I’d get my next gig. On walks with Krizo, I began to look around, finally seeing my neighborhood, where I had meant to take walks for years. And I realized what I’d been missing. I hadn’t been noticing the butterflies flutter. I hadn’t known many of my neighbors or seen cardinals in the trees. After Krizo’s mama passed, I thought I was doing her a favor by looking out for him, but in this time I’ve come to understand that she sent him to look out for me.
PHOTO BY: Gregg Segal
Gloria Putnam, 48 (Valyermo, California)
When you take care of 150 goats, you have to make sure they are free of discomfort, fear and hunger. Goats are like all animals: They’re totally living in the present. They’re not worried about what’s happening tomorrow. So walking around the forest with a bunch of goats pulls you into that mindset. The goats are training you to enjoy what is. You can’t control a lot of things in the future. All you can control is how you feel about what’s happening now. Right now, what the goats show you is that nature just keeps going.