Professional athletes have become more candid about their mental health, leading teams to add mental skills and performance coaches to their roster to improve athletes' wellbeing as well as their athletic performance. The San Francisco 49ers took it one step further and have the NFL's first-ever emotional support dog, an adorable French Bulldog named Zoë.
Emotional support dogs "provide comfort and support in the forms of affection and companionship for an individual suffering from various mental and emotional conditions," according to the United States Dog Registry. Whether the player is dealing with depression or has pregame jitters, Zoë can help calm them down and ease their mind.
Zoë was adopted by Austin Moss, the 49ers' director of player engagement, and she has captured players' hearts hanging out in his office ever since. Even John Lynch, the 49ers general manager, has seen how Zo has helped the players. "Every time I went by, there were more and more players in there, and that's a good thing," he told The Athletic.
Defencive end Solomon Thomas has spoken candidly about his mental health and has become an advocate for mental health awareness, and told The Athletic that dogs "could be a perfect getaway" to deal with the stressors of playing professional football.
Zoë's presence is working for the team on and off the field, and we have a feeling it has a lot to do with her kisses. Check out the cutest photos of Zoë and the 49ers ahead.