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Emotional Support Dog Joins Forty-Niners Football

Players and staff love Zoë, their French Bulldog
By Karen B. London PhD, November 2019, Updated June 2021
not Zoë the National Football League’s first emotional support dog

If other professional football teams want to know the secret behind the San Francisco 49ers amazing start this season (eight consecutive wins and no losses at the time of this writing), they might want to consider Zoë’s role. Zoë is the National Football League’s first emotional support dog, and she is an asset to the team.

Zoë helps both players and staff, lessening stress and anxiety and bringing happiness to a group of people who are frequently in physical pain as well as dealing with emotional issues. Yes, the players and many of the coaches have their dream jobs and love what they do, but that does not mean that they have an easy life. Working for the NFL means being in a pressure cooker, and constantly dealing with that stress takes its toll.

In 2018, an employee brought a French Bulldog named Vito to work while dog sitting him. The players couldn’t get enough of spending time with Vito, and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas began a campaign to encourage the team to adopt a dog. Thomas had recently lost his sister to suicide and was really open about the mental health struggles he had faced since then. Being around Zoë has brought him relief from the pain and makes him feel better.

Thomas requested that Austin Moss II, the director of player engagement, welcome a dog into the team in an official capacity, and Moss eventually did so. Moss is the dog’s official guardian. Zoë spends most of her days at the training facility, but she goes home with Moss every night. So, even though everybody on the 49ers feels a connection to her, she does have a guardian of her own and a regular family life. She does not attend away games, so she is spared the stress of traveling to new places.

The players love to spend time playing with her, cuddling with her and training her. If you want see many more adorable pictures and videos of Zoë, you can follow her on Instagram: @the49ersfrenchie.

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life