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Shamelessly, 70% of my phone’s photos are of my Saint Germaine. This being has warmed my heart and given me a new perspective on life; one with more compassion, patience, and unconditional love. From being obsessed with his prestigious demeanor, receiving the warmest welcome after a stressful day of work, going on walks that have gotten me out of bed during some of my darkest times, and the cuddles that make me feel less alone, reassuring me that everything is going to be okay, my fur baby has ultimately saved my life.

Recently, the relationship between Black people and their pets has been celebrated more than ever, and I am proud to be one of those pet parents! Social media pages like @blackpeoplepets help “represent the unrepresented” and show healthy and hilarious displays of this companionship. The physical and mental health benefits of caring for an animal are well documented, but proportionally Black people are less likely to own a pet. According to the 2017 American Housing Survey, 58% of white non-hispanic households own a pet versus just 24% of Black households. And this disparity is reinforced across the media landscape where Black pet owners are rarely represented, much less uplifted.

America has successfully documented many struggles of black people, and the trauma we carry with us manifests in many facets of our lives. Historically, attack dogs have been trained to hunt and maul Black people during chattel slavery through the Civil Rights Movement. Dogs used as violent instruments in the black community go against the loving human-animal bond, creating a complex relationship. During my childhood, I even recall fearing dogs and having a strong disconnect from animals altogether.

Positive images counter the brutal Jim Crow visuals that are seared into our collective memory. They also create representation and provide an understanding of pet ownership, and more black households are encouraged to enjoy all its advantages. Although it takes a lot to care for a pet, animals can offer so much to their owners. Mentally, interacting with pets can decrease the stress-related hormone, cortisol, and overall alleviate worry, depression, and loneliness. A 2016 HABRI study showed multiple benefits of pets to owners who struggled with long-term mental illnesses, which included a stronger sense of identity, a sense of security and routine, and distraction and disruption from distressing symptoms.

When caring for a pet there are physical perks as well. In addition to decreasing stress levels, pet-human interactions can also lower blood pressure. Depending on the intensity, walking a dog is considered moderate to vigorous physical activity and daily movement is highly encouraged for a healthy lifestyle. In a 2018 News in Health article, research for human-animal interaction is still considered relatively new, but the list of advantages continues to grow, even including pets’ influence on child development.

While our community is known to be resilient, we deserve to see more wholesome moments and images that speak to the softer side of life. Creating these photos meant so much to me and to the people around me because I know how impactful pets can be to one’s life. Taking care of Saint gives me responsibility, offers me moments to be present and helps me practice giving and receiving love. With more black people having access and representation, we can experience many mental, physical, and emotional benefits from pet ownership. We now have an opportunity to create healthier visuals to spread and to help combat the violent ones documented in our history. Most importantly, we can form an unyielding bond, also present for life’s toughest times.

References: (n.d.). The Power of Pets: Health Benefits of Human-Animal Interactions. News in Health. Van Heeckeren, A. M., DVM (n.d.). 10 Mental & Physical Health Benefits of Having Pets. Https://, S., Goodman, L., & Zhu, J. (n.d.). A housing survey reveals five trends about American pet owners. Urban Institute.: s



What does it mean to be a black pet parent?

What it means to be a black pet parent is that you don’t let past generational stigma around pets influence your decisions when it comes to your pet.

What was one of your earliest relationships with animals?

One of my earliest relationships with animals was when I would go to my grandparent’s house and play with their dog and that dog became one of my best friends.

What do you love most about your pet?

What I love most about my dog is how he never fails to make me smile and the security he brings me.

How have you changed since becoming a pet owner?

What I have changed since becoming a pet owner is how I spend my time and with whom that time is spent.

What impact has your pet had on your mental health?

The impact that my pet has had on my mental health is completely for the better, as I am so much happier knowing that I have the most loyal and loving friend ever.





What does it mean to be a black pet parent?

For me, being a Black pet parent is about two things: safety and comfort. Bino is my true companion. He was with me throughout the pandemic years and now that we’re seemingly on the other side, he’s been able to transition with me through huge transformations in my life. In the beginning of 2021, I moved from DC to New York and I couldn’t have imagined that move without him. With every bark, he protects our new apartment and with every morning cuddle session he ensures that I am calm to take on the day. I’m also well aware that being a pet parent, in general, is a luxury in itself. This Black History Month, I’m honored to celebrate being a dog mom, a title that’s historically been given to the majority in this country but we can now reclaim as our own.


What was one of your earliest relationships with animals?

When I was five, our parents bought us a cat named Friskee. Friskee was less than friendly and I remember her coming into my room every night, scratching on my bedpost, and biting at my toes. Needless to say, I wasn’t a huge fan and I’ve been scared of cats ever since. However dogs have always been my favorite. My late grandmother, who passed during the pandemic, was a true animal lover. She used to tell stories of my dad and his siblings growing up and how they had every kind of pet in their home. Cats, dogs, a snake, a few rabbits – all with whimsical names that each child came up with on their own. When I was young, one of the remaining pets was a Black dog named Pepper who lived until he was 17 years old. When I look at Bino, I think of Pepper and how my relationship with him at a young age informed how I show up and care for Bino now.


What do you love most about your pet?

I love Bino’s energy and attentiveness. He’s a silly dog that loves to play both with humans and other dogs. He’s about to be 3 years old and still has the same energy he had when I got him at 3 months. He can outrun any dog in the dog park and I hope he never loses his playful side. He is also very attentive to the things around him which fuels his curiosity. Since we moved he’s been intrigued by the new sounds of a big city and adjusting to everything new around him.


How have you changed since becoming a pet owner?

Since Bino, I’ve become softer in my approach with myself and others. I’ve always been kind to others, however there’s a caretaker role that you play with your pets that flows into other parts of your life as well.


What impact has your pet had on your mental health?

During the peak of the pandemic, I was living alone in my condo in DC and it got very lonely. I had just lost my grandmother and within a week I had applied to adopt Bino. A week later, he was transported from Tennessee and I brought him home and it still is the best decision I’ve ever made. Simply saying the pandemic was hard is an understatement. This country was also going through a period of social unrest that affected the Black community in unimaginable ways and I remember watching the news and instagram stories as my friends were shot with rubber bullets during protests outside of the White House, just ten minutes from where I lived. DC looked more like a war zone than the place that I call home and the crippling depression and anxiety that I felt throughout this time was unbearable.


I remembered my grandmother and her stories of all her different pets, and I got Bino to honor her. It was a way of staying connected to her and the McNair family tradition of being Black pet parents for generations to come. But it was also a way for me to find a sense of calm in the storm that was 2020 – a year of isolation and the pandemic, but also the year that Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd were senselessly killed by those meant to protect us. It’s why I do the work that I do now to protect and support those from underrepresented communities and I’m thankful for Bino’s morning cuddles before I get up each day to do so.




What does it mean to be a black pet parent?

Being a Black pet parent is being a Black parent, honestly. I’m aware that children we give birth to coming with great responsibility. Yes, and having my little Pops (my pup) I must care for his well-being, I must watch out for the things that he eats, I must look past his grunts of upset sighs when he doesn’t get his way. He’s a little man, a little baby, and a puppy all in one. He’ll definitely let you know when he doesn’t like that you haven’t agreed with him and it’s quite funny but also I’m like “Little boy, please! You’re not grown”…though he is in dog years. I show him love just as I show children, love, we’re best friends and I know this from how he reacts when I come home every day. It’s even evident in the pics/videos Midori sends me when I don’t come home in a timely manner. He watches the door, he stands guard. He has facial expressions, and we can see sadness when it’s present within him.

What was one of your earliest relationships with animals?

When I was 11 my mom’s friend gave us a Rock-wilder, German Shepherd mixed. He was cool, but I wasn’t into taking care of him and my baby sister, simultaneously. Not that I had to. But I remember there was this one day I was watching them while my mom went to the grocery store. They were playing, I was tired, so I made sure there was nothing for them to get into. I woke up to poop piles, human and K-9, on the floor. I’m sure it was less than 3 piles but waking up to the smell was horrid. Then, I noticed my sister’s diaper on the floor, so I lifted it. It was the largest pile of poop. I was in shock and really mad that they decided this was okay to do. They decided to leave the scene and fall asleep in a totally different room. I had to clean it all up, smell and all, before my mom got back. Lol, I see I still haven’t recovered from that scene. All good though, it’s love and I did what needed to be done that day, for the family.

What do you love most about your pet?

I am a totally different person since having Pops, our pup, in my world. His first name is Papi, we call him Pops, I sometimes call him Sir, because he’s a little man in there. He came with my fiancé, Midori Amae, so when I walked into their lives it was love at first sight. I still remember, I walked into their home, he popped his little head up to get a better look at me. I walked over to him and started talking to him, and we kicked it in his apartment/room. His tail hasn’t stopped wagging since. We love to play-fight, it’s the best. That’s my guy.

How have you changed since becoming a pet owner?

I didn’t understand until now what people meant when they say “my pet is best friend, they’ve always been there for me”. It means that in those moments when you feel alone and full of emotion, your pet is there comforting you. They feel the change of energy within you and they are concerned, connected, just by your side. They look to you to see what’s going on within you and they allow you to rest upon them. They kind of want to take the pain away from you. Like rest your sorrows upon me and allow your heart to breathe deeply. They just want to sit with you and wait for you to feel better. They may not have the words but they know and have the senses and will speak telepathically.

What impact has your pet had on your mental health?

Just being able to talk aloud and get your feelings out with another being accompanying you, is priceless. No judgment, no opinions, just you and them to look at you when you say/ask, “Ya know?” And they do know and don’t respond with words. They just look at you and it’s up to you to decide or decipher. I believe this is like mirror work and allows you to learn how to be a freethinker.





PHOTOGRAPHER: @saphshoots

MUSE(S): YASMINE LAWLER @imlawbtw,  MIDORI AMAE @midoriamae,  SASHA MCNAIR @sasha_khali 





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