North Carolina National Guard Spc. Dawn Campbell and her dog Ozzie.

The coronavirus is challenging to our finances, our morale, our social structures and our community institutions.

It’s also challenging our ability and resolve when it comes to social distancing, a requirement for staying safe and inhibiting the spread of the virus. Human beings are social creatures and we often gain strength in trying times by uniting with others. So it’s not surprising that one of the themes emerging from the current crisis is how difficult it is to stay at home alone.

But there’s one group among us that has a distinct advantage, and that’s pet owners. Many of them find companionship, as well as comfort and joy, from their furry friends: the dogs, cats and other animals that receive their attention and return it with affection and devotion. Pets ease the isolation that many people feel — at a time like this and any other time.

And fortunately, the virus can’t be passed via animals. It’s strictly person-to-person.

There’s been an uptick in local pet adoptions and fostering, according to Sarah Williamson, the executive director of the Forsyth Humane Society. (It’s a nationwide phenomenon, The New York Times reported last week.) And the Humane Society has done everything possible to facilitate adoptions and fostering while minimizing risky personal contact.

The organization’s main facility on Country Club Road is now closed to the public, but the humane society is taking appointments from pet-seekers. It’s also taking extra precautions at its facility, regularly cleaning all door handles, counters, chairs, etc., and placing hand-sanitizing stations throughout.

Much of the preliminary work — like the payment of the adoption fee — can be done online via the organization’s website, forsythhumane.org.

The humane society, in fact, is encouraging FaceTime appointments with prospective adopters, so that they can narrow their choices before visiting.

“We have been overwhelmed with gratitude by the number of families who have stepped up to open their homes and their hearts to foster,” Williamson told the Journal. “If you are working from home, and the kids are home from school, a sweet pup or kitty is a great family project. I guarantee your foster buddy will make you smile and forget your cares. Plus you can walk your pup outside! And you’ll have something new to talk about on social media.”

Despite the increase, more support is needed, especially in terms of donations, which can also be made via the website.

FurEver Friends of North Carolina, which assists with pet medical expenses, has also seen a recent uptick in requests for assistance. FurEver has helped over 2,000 animals since 2004 and, with public help, stands to help many more. More information can be found online at www.fureverfriendsnc.org/.

Pet ownership should always be taken seriously, and more so at a time like this, when illness and unemployment are possibilities.

But it’s difficult to exaggerate the rewards of pet ownership; it’s even beneficial to owners’ health. Studies have linked it to an increase in longevity and a reduction in stress.

The country’s top public health official, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, has warned that this week we’ll see a steep increase in sickness and fatalities. To those who have been tempting fate by communing at church, at the basketball court, at the dog park — it’s time to knock it off. Get serious.

And consider, for now or the future, the benefits of giving a home to a four-legged friend who can help ease the isolation with which so many of us will be struggling.

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