CRF Introduction: Sahana Sridar

Hi all! My name is Sahana Sridar. I am from Central New Jersey, but I am so excited to be in Pittsburgh over the summer as a Community Research Fellow! 

I am a rising sophomore studying Biology with a Chemistry minor and a Conceptual Foundations of Medicine certificate. When I am not at Hillman Library or power walking to class, I love to explore nearby restaurants, listen to new Spotify artists, and snap pictures on my phone. I also enjoy making trips to Trader Joe’s to prepare meals for the upcoming week! I love making salads, but I am not a fan of cutting vegetables, particularly onions and tomatoes. 

In the future, I hope to be a physician and seek knowledge about health, disease, and the improvement of patient care through field research. Ultimately, my goal in whatever I do is to learn more about the different perspectives of community members and develop a research agenda to address real human problems. 

This summer, I am eager to be working with Dr. Mary Rauktis at the School of Social Work to study elders’ acquisition of rescue dogs during the pandemic. Due to the COVID-19 virus and subsequent quarantine, humans, who are inherently social creatures, began feeling isolated, lonely and stressed. Older individuals are at a disproportionately higher risk for loneliness, which was amplified by COVID-19 quarantining. Studies indicated that adopting a pet provides individuals with emotional support, thus reducing social isolation. 

Over the next few weeks, I will be reaching out to and interviewing elders who acquired dogs during the pandemic to gain greater insight into the therapeutic human-animal bond. I will investigate how animals improved people’s confinement situation while also gauging the potential challenges of supporting a pet. My end goal is to organize this information to be shared with animal welfare agencies like the Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh to better assist clients needing resources like pet food or a pet sitter. In addition, with further research supporting the benefits of human-animal interaction, social workers can convey to elders the benefits they can experience. 

Young adults also experienced immense feelings of social isolation during the pandemic. The abrupt transition from seeing classmates in the hallways and talking to teachers to staying in your house only leaving to go grocery shopping or for a checkup was challenging to say the least. Otis became a member of my family a few months before quarantine began in 2020 and made lockdown bearable, not only with licks and belly rubs. Otis gave me a sense of routine: every morning he would come scratching on the side of my bed for us to go on a walk. On our regular walking route, we would say hello to other dogs and their owners. I later realized I preferred getting swept up in the spring breeze and appreciating the sunshine on our walks rather than staying in my house. 

My personal connection to the subject fueled my desire to explore other people’s experiences with their dogs during the pandemic. We view Otis as a nonverbal member of our family who lifted our spirits during the pandemic. Without Otis, we would have less of a desire to appreciate the weather, socialize with new individuals, and may even feel deprived of purpose daily.

By communicating with older pet owners, I aim to understand how and why pets were adopted in the first place and the consequences of having one during the pandemic. Do pets optimize happiness and productivity or can the stress of supporting another living creature be overwhelming? How challenging and time-consuming was the decision process? What influenced what type of pet one should get? Where was this pet acquired? Overall, this summer I strive to improve on my interviewing and analyzing skills and also understand how to best advise people suffering from confinement on how to find companionship during these unprecedented times. 

One Comment Add yours

  1. staciedow says:

    This is great, Sahana! Love the name Otis and that you had a personal connection. I think you should also connect with Animal Friends (which you might already be connected with) to learn more about their programs with donating food to pantries, too. They also had bunny yoga before – which I think we all can enjoy. 🙂

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