How pets help us cope with anxiety, loss and stress, as well as bringing happiness into our life


Eight-year-old Champ, A499034, is a friendly dog who loves people and loves toys. He’ll even play with toys by himself for fun. When he first arrived at the shelter, he was in rough shape. Our veterinary team gave him loving care and medical treatment, and he’s now ready to be adopted! Bring a true Champ into your home today!

In his last column, Jack Hagerman, Pasadena Humane’s vice president of community engagement, wrote, “Change is a part of life. And sometimes, big changes happen all at once in a way that throws us completely off our game.”

Dia DuVernet

Dia DuVernet is president and CEO at Pasadena Humane

Jack was talking about his friend’s cat who became depressed after a family divorce and a move, but perhaps Jack was trying to prepare you, his loyal readers, for a big change.

Prepare yourself — Jack has left us to become president and CEO of Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society. This big change is super positive for Jack, but I imagine it will leave many of you, as it did all of us at Pasadena Humane, feeling a huge sense of loss.

Rather than indulging in some unhealthy means of self-soothing, such as eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s like I did when I heard this news, let’s congratulate Jack on a job well done and find healthier ways to cope with our loss.

Jack, we are so happy for you, and we wish you all the best as you make this big change in your life. We will miss your quick wit, wide-ranging expertise, and compassion for the animals and people in our community. As the saying goes, our loss is Santa Fe’s gain.

There is no denying Jack leaves big shoes to fill. In taking over his column, I look forward to connecting with those of you who enjoyed reading his entertaining stories. We share a love of Jack and a love of animals. Hopefully, these commonalities will help us as we navigate this loss and other challenges that will come our way.

So, here is my first piece of advice to you…before, not after, you eat a huge helping of chocolate fudge brownie ice cream, please remember pets can be a great comfort in times of stress.

My adopted dog Sueshi is my most loyal companion. She is snuggled up next to me, sleeping and emitting an occasional contented sigh as I write this column.

Here are five ways Sueshi and other pets can comfort us in our times of loss

  • Pets can relieve stress and anxiety just by virtue of their companionship and symbiotic relationship with us.
  • Without a prescription or trip to the drug store, pets can chemically enhance our happiness by increasing oxytocin and serotonin in our brains.
  • Everyone knows exercise is good for us and helps combat depression, although sometimes it’s hard to motivate. Dogs, and cats too, can get us moving and enjoying the outdoors. Did you know cats can be trained to walk on leash?
  • When we are out and about with our pets, we meet new friends. Since I moved to Pasadena in the summer of 2019, and especially after the pandemic hit eight months later, walks with Sueshi have been some of my main social events.
  • If you don’t have a pet, don’t despair. Research has shown that simply petting a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol. Try tagging along with neighbors on their dog walks. And of course, if you would like to adopt a pet, we can help you at Pasadena Humane.

So Jack, during your move and as you adjust to your new home and your new job, we wish you all the happiness in the world. Change is hard, even positive change, so it might be stressful. Remember, we are always here for you at Pasadena Humane. And if you need another dog to take with you to New Mexico, we’ve got you covered.