The physical and emotional benefits of spending time with animals are something that scientists have been studying for some time. Evidence suggests that many aspects of a person’s physical and mental health can benefit if they own a pet or spend time having contact with an animal. This has led to many organizations using dogs for therapy and emotional support. Such organizations have included hospitals, care homes, and schools. Now, the NFL is getting in on the action as they have got their very first emotional support dog.
The team that has employed the support dog is the San Francisco 49ers, says I Heart Dogs. After many up and downs over the last 30 years, the team has now become one of the only two undefeated teams in their most recent playing season. This is the best that the San Francisco 49ers have done for 29 years, which is a bit leap forward for the team. So, is this down to skill, practice, or just pure luck? Some are arguing that the team’s emotional support dog should take some of the credit. The one-year-old French Bulldog is called Zoe, and she has had a surprisingly positive effect on the team, and it seems that she is contributing to their current success.
The team first got the idea to get their own emotional support dog after one of their employees brought his dog Vito, also a French Bulldog, to work with him one day. Everyone on the team fell in love with the dog and wanted to spend as much time as possible hanging around with him. Austin Moss, the director of player engagement for the San Francisco 49ers, noticed the way that the team interacted with the dog. It inspired him to investigate the possibility of the team getting their own emotional support dog, and this led to them getting Zoe.
While the benefits of an emotional support dog for people with dementia and those going through a trauma have been proven, you might wonder how a dog can possibly support a sports team. Two of the main benefits are that having Zoe around has made the team feel happier and she has kept them motivated during their practice sessions and in the lead up to their games. Solomon Thomas, a defensive end for the 49ers, says that it is a very stressful job and that a lot of guys find it difficult. Some are also affected by personal struggles that can impact on their game, and this is something of which Thomas has personal experience.
Thomas has struggled with mental health issues in the past. A particularly difficult time for him was when his sister committed suicide in January 2018. Since then, he has struggled with his mental health. He has found spending time with Zoe really helpful as she lifts his mood when he is feeling low. Sometimes, he is feeling sad or angry, so he goes to see Zoe. As soon as he sees the cute little dog, Thomas says that he feels better instantly. Even spending a short time with Zoe can change his day, and Thomas says that many other players feel the same way.
In addition to her work as an emotional support dog for the 49ers, Zoe is also becoming a social media star. She has her own Instagram page, and she has already accumulated 7,000 followers. Her Instagram page features many photos of Zoe hanging out with the team and having a great time with her new friends. When watching the team play, you might get the impression that many of the players are rather intimidating. They look fierce, strong, and powerful, However, if you could see them interacting with Zoe, you would see a much softer side to them. They all enjoy snuggling up to the little French Bulldog and laying with her when they are not working. She certainly seems to bring out their loving side and makes them all happier.
So far, Zoe has been a great help for all the team, and it seems that she is enjoying her role. The team believes that she has definitely contributed to their current run of success, and they hope that she can continue making the same contribution in the coming seasons. Therefore, there is little doubt that Zoe will remain an important member of the team. Even if the team does not win every game, Zoe can still play a valuable role. In fact, that is when they are most likely to need her support as many team members may need cheering up after their defeat. Having an emotional support dog for a sports team is just the latest way in which dogs are being used to offer support to humans. While service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks, the role of an emotional support dog is all about providing comfort, says the American Kennel Club.
In the past, the police have used emotional support dogs to offer comfort to victims of crimes, while hospitals have offered emotional support dogs to grieving relatives. Now that the San Francisco 49ers have their own emotional support dog and it has proved a success, it may inspire many other sports teams to do the same in the hope that it will motivate their team and make the players happier. It may even inspire other sectors and industries to consider the ways in which an emotional support dog could benefit their employees in the workplace, as people are generally more productive at work when they are happy. Zoe is just the latest in a long line of examples of the versatility of dogs in terms of the support that they can offer to humans, and it is likely that many more stories will attract the attention of the media in the future as more emotional support dogs are employed in a variety of roles.