With so many people working from home these days, pets are getting to spend a lot more quality time with their humans. For Debbie Rose, senior physician relations specialist, that means putting her dog to work to help others.

Debbie Rose and her labradoodle, Jazz.
Physician liaison Debbie Rose, her husband and Jazz make regular visits to emergency dispatch call centers around San Antonio.

Debbie Rose, her husband, Jim, and their labradoodle, Jazz, have taken to visiting emergency dispatch call centers, providing comfort and calm to stressed essential workers. They do it as part of the nonprofit ministry organization, Canines for Christ.

“The people at the call centers, they’re already dealing with so much stress in their workplace on top of dealing with the pandemic,” said Debbie Rose, noting that many dispatchers were eager to wave her over so they wouldn’t miss the chance to pet and interact with Jazz. “It’s been received really well.”

As a physician liaison, Debbie Rose is accustomed to an active job with plenty of human interaction. But now, with limited face-to-face communication with her clients, volunteering brings her that much-needed socialization, as well as a sense of well-being.

“One thing you get from volunteering is positive energy,” she said. “It’s been such a great experience, people are so grateful that we’re there, so it’s a positive thing when we’re in such negative times to go out get warm welcome and feedback.”

Volunteering can also have substantial benefits to overall health and wellness.

“Many people use the pithy expression, ‘when in need, do a deed,’” said Giancarlo Ferruzzi, MD, associate professor and clinical psychiatrist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “Many times, helping others will help us when we are feeling low and in need of a boost.”

Studies have shown that when engaging in activities that benefit others, the hormone oxytocin is released, the same hormone that promotes bonding in mothers and their infants. Oxytocin has been found to have health benefits and possibly increase overall lifespan, said Dr. Ferruzzi.

“I think those who are able to should reach out to others and offer some support. It’s a win-win for the people they help as well as themselves,” he said.

Debbie Rose, her husband and Jazz now volunteer once a month, making regular visits to emergency dispatch call centers around San Antonio.

“We’re stuck in the house so much because of COVID-19,” she said. “So when you get to go spend an hour or two of your day making people happy, and then at the same time you know your dog is happy…that they’re bringing joy and they’re getting joy. I mean, what’s better than that?”