Dog sitting on the floor beside couch with sneaker laces in mouth

Snuggles, Physical Activity and Companionship: Pets offer Health Benefits While Working from Home

Decreased blood pressure, increased feelings of companionship and opportunities for exercise – all these benefits and more come with owning a pet.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the routine of having to meet your pet’s daily needs breeds responsibility and a feeling of accomplishment.

Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and more all have benefits for their owners. Studies have shown that just petting an animal triggers dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin in human beings, which reduce our stress levels and help us remain calm. The American Heart Association notes that health benefits of owning a pet include decreased blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness. It doesn’t hurt that dog ownership leads to increased exercise and outdoor time, and any type of pet allows human beings to experience decreased feelings of loneliness and help them feel supported.

There are plenty of pet owners who can attest to the truth of these studies. With more time now spent at home, pet owners are finding the extra activity, and all those extra snuggles, are doing them some good.

The Pets We Didn’t Know We Needed

Peter Kates, of Erie County, didn’t want to adopt a Havanese puppy last year. “I didn’t think we needed a dog, but I can’t imagine him living with anyone else,” Peter said.

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Peter and his family adopted Henri as a type of a therapy pet for his daughter, Madeleine, who has some health issues, including frequent migraines.  One day, Henri made a beeline for Madeleine’s left ankle and began licking furiously. Less than 10 minutes later, Madeleine had one of her migraines. Now, whenever Henri does this, they know a migraine is coming on, Peter says.

Picture of a white guinea pig

Pearl Kates (photo courtesy of Peter Kates)

If this puppy love fills Peter’s home with warmth, his past and current guinea pigs – Nutmeg and Pearl – push it to overflowing. Nutmeg, lived to seven and a half years old – almost double the average life expectancy of the furry rodents. These insanely loyal and loving pets keep the Kates’ busy.  “They’re very social animals, like tribbles in Star Trek,” said Peter. “They interact with you, they have personalities, they have unique behaviors, and they’re just great pets.”

Balancing Daisy, Prince, Poppy and a Laptop

Liz Kiniorski, of Monroe County, says her photogenic Shih Tzu, Daisy Starlet Sparkle Fluffy-Pants is popular not only in her home but with the general public through her own Instagram page.

“She has more Instagram followers than me,” Liz said. “She’s just starting to build her brand.”

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Liz and Daisy do everything together, from going to community events to hiking on trails. Working from home with Daisy has had its ups and downs, though, Liz says.

“She loves that I’m home all day, but wants a lot of attention,” she said. “She will stare at me while I’m working and if I don’t give her attention right away, she will tap me gently with her paw until she gets the attention she wants… I’ve figured out a way to balance my laptop on the corner of my couch so when I am catching up on emails or reading reports, she can lay in my lap.”

And with no coworkers to socialize with, Daisy is now Liz’s go-to break buddy. “We go for a lot of walks each day,” Liz said. “She might be anxious for me to get back into the office!”

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Adding to the excitement is trying to work with two 6-month-old kittens, Liz said. She got Prince and Poppy-Pinkerbelle in October. “Last week I had to untangle Poppy from the curtains during a conference call,” she said. “Prince really wants to type on my laptop.”

How do your pets help you work from home?

Share your story in the comments below.

Picture of a get well soon card in a hospital room.

Give Back by Giving Blood

“You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.”  – U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome Adams

Donate blood to save a life!

Looking to find a way to give back to your community during these unprecedented times?

Both American Red Cross and ConnectLife (in Western New York only) are in need of blood donors. The Gift of Life can come from a critical blood transfusion just like it can take the form of a life-saving organ.

“I come from a family of doctors and medical professionals and I have seen the ever-present need of such donations firsthand. They do indeed save lives,” said Divakar Singh, Business Process Intelligence Analyst with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

“I have been donating blood, whole blood, double red cells and platelets since 2013. Medicine and medical technologies have had tremendous advancements over the past years. Receiving first aid and immediate care could be hampered by the shortage of the blood supply.”

Please note that blood drives are essential and in direct support to other emergency services remaining open at this time.

Note that precautions are being taken to keep everyone healthy.

For more information, visit:

Visit the links below to find a donation site near you.

Photo of a person sitting barefoot in a park reading

Spring is Here: Get Outside to Do Your Mind and Body Some Good

The New York State Department of Health suggests getting outdoors to walk, jog, hike, garden, ride a bicycle or visit a park as healthy ways to stay active and reduce stress and anxiety while engaging in social distancing strategies.

“Research supports what many of us already feel,” said Bruce Naughton, M.D., Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s vice president and chief medical officer for Medicare. “Spending time in nature does our mind and body good.”

Naughton highlights the potential benefits of getting outside:

Protect your bones

Sunlight hitting the skin eventually leads to the creation of vitamin D in your body. It’s good protection against osteoporosis and other diseases. Just 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your bare arms and legs a few times a week is all you need. However, if you’re going to be out longer, be sure to apply a sunscreen with UV-A and UV-B protection, and an SPF of 15 or higher.

Recharges the brain

The demands of everyday life can overtax the mind and body. Time with nature is like connecting to a recharging station, allowing us to better cope with the stresses of life. Our brains don’t have to work the same way to pay attention to nature as they do to focus on a computer screen. The possible benefits of spending time outdoors include a more upbeat mood, increased creativity, improved concentration and reduced stress.

Helps us age gracefully

Older people who get outside regularly stay healthier and function better, longer (source: Studies have shown that those who have contact with nature have fewer complaints of aches and pains, sleep issues, or other health-related problems.

Makes us move more

Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors, so there’s no question that most of us have a sedentary lifestyle. Making an effort to be outside means there is less chance of wiling away hours plopped down in a chair inside. Instead, there’s a greater chance of moving more by puttering in the yard, or walking your dog in the neighborhood.

“I encourage you to make the most of spring by getting outdoors as soon as you can,” said Naughton. “Bring your cellphone for safety but leave the earbuds at home so you can fully enjoy the sights and sounds as the world around you blossoms and blooms. Connecting with nature will do your brain and body good.”

New York state is currently waiving all park fees in state, local and county parks. Click here to FIND A PARK.

For more information on how to practice social distancing while enjoying the outdoors, visit the New York State Department of Health website.

A child playing with cookie dough

14 Ways to Spend Your Leisure Time

Even though going out to movies, concerts, large social gatherings, restaurants are on hold while we practice social distancing, there are many ways to continue to enjoy leisure time activities – albeit on a smaller scale.

Looking for some fun, creative thing to do? Here are a few recommendations:

1. Cook!

“Shop” your pantry for ingredients and create! Grab a cookbook off the shelf or search the internet and try something new. Explore your inner-gourmet, or if quick and easy is more your style, you’re bound to find something to please your palate.

2. Dine out at home!

Many local restaurants remain open for take-out or delivery orders. Support local restaurant businesses by ordering out or purchase gift cards for future use. Visit your favorite local restaurants online or call ahead to see if they’re offering take-out or delivery service and check out the menu! Many local newspapers and Chambers of Commerce post lists of take-out/delivery restaurants on their websites. Or check out the website Local for Later for restaurants in Upstate, NY.

3. Catch a Flick

If ever there was a time for guilt-free binge watching, it’s now! Watch a show or series, check out a movie, concert or documentary. Cable and streaming services offer entertainment 24/7.

4. Read!

Many libraries offer E-books. Sign in with your library card and download or get a membership. Here’s a link to the Onondaga County Library System, Monroe County Library System, the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress for information about how to check out their E-books and audiobooks. Whatever your favorite genre, biography, fiction or non-fiction you’ll find a library of choices online.

5. Take a virtual tour

Visit a museum or zoo – online. A quick online search will identify options – many offer live streams.

6. DIY

Are you a home improvement or DIY fan? Since you’re home – now may be a good time to catch up on a project or two.

7. Brighten your space

Crafty? Try your hand at a new craft project. You’ll find lots of ideas online. Craft projects can brighten your space – and your spirits.

8. Roll the Dice

Board games aren’t boring! Dust off a game and have some classic fun.

9. One piece at a time

Complete a puzzle – maybe one of those 1000+ piece ones!

10. Get moving!

Take a walk around the yard, check out an online exercise class or download an app.

11. Harness your green thumb

Plant a garden – in the yard or a container. An herb garden can add color to your space and your recipes!

12. Connect Virtually

Schedule a virtual visit with friends and family via Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp or another platform.

13. Share ideas!

Share ideas! Ask others what they’re doing to keep busy. You may pick up a new hobby – or be inspired to tackle the “to-do” list!

  • Colleen Garofalo of Syracuse tackled something she’d been wanting to do. “I cleaned out some cabinets and drawers in the master bath over the weekend. Got rid of two bags full of stuff and organized what was kept,” she said. “It looks amazing! Going to move on to the next room this weekend!”
  • “We got a head start on fall/winter clean up,” said Sara Rink of Rochester. “We have other weekend warrior jobs planned since we are not as mobile to escape. Power washing concrete, digging moss out of the walkway and re-sanding, what to do with the deck – ugh!” The time at home has given her time to plan. “It helps when the sun is out! We do hope this will pass very soon but making plans to better our surroundings is a good fresh start.”

14. Laugh

And lastly, don’t forget to laugh! As they say, laughter is the best medicine. It helps reduce stress and improves the mood.

For more ideas, check out this recent USA Today article 100 Things to Do When Stuck Inside