Disclaimer: Please be sure you can make a life-long commitment to a pet before you choose to adopt, and ensure that you are financially able to do so. Consult with your family and other members of your support team before you decide to adopt an emotional support animal. Your pet will need you just as much as you need them.
When I look back at the 18-year-old version of me, I see a shy, scared girl dreading her freshman year of college. She suffered from anxiety and depression, and felt terrified to move away from home. In fact, this girl never even successfully enjoyed a sleepover with her best friends.
I spent my freshman year making the two-hour drive home from school almost every weekend because I only felt safe at home. When I stayed at school, I would call my parents several times each day and battled severe homesickness. However, I realized the person I missed the most was actually my dog, Ginger. We brought Ginger home when I was 11 years old, and I really struggled being away from her. I couldn’t just call her to talk like I could with my parents, and I missed walking her and petting her silky fur.
During my sophomore year, I moved out of university housing and brought Ginger to college so she could be my emotional support animal. My doctor helped me obtain the proper certifications and we moved into our new apartment together.
With Ginger by my side, I watched my quality of life and college experience instantly improve.
Ginger’s unconditional love motivated me to make the most of my time in college. On the days when I felt depressed, her goofy smile and wagging tail helped me climb out of bed. After all, Ginger needed me to walk and feed her! Once Ginger helped me out of bed, I would typically feel better quickly.
When Ginger sensed I wasn’t feeling like myself, she would take it upon herself to cheer me up. When we’d go for walks around our apartment complex, she’d carry her toys (which were often much bigger than her) in her mouth the entire time. Other times, she’d come nuzzle me with her head or tackle me with doggy kisses. As you can imagine, it’s hard to feel sad when 35 pounds of furry joy greets you like it’s Christmas morning everytime you return from class.
I often brought Ginger to campus so she could keep me company while I studied, and I’d even bring her to class if my professors approved. Ginger loved all the new smells and new people. More than anything, though, I had a newfound confidence with her by my side.
Ginger not only brought me joy, but she made other students happy, too.
Classmates loved it when I brought her to club meetings, and anyone who knew Ginger at all would come over to pet her when we walked by. I even brought her to a sorority meeting one time, and she made the whole room laugh when she tried to chase a moving cursor on a projected computer screen. What’s more, one of my professors loved Ginger because she always pointed out any students who disobeyed the professor’s strict “no food in class” policy.
While Ginger helped me make new friends, she also gave me an “out” to go home without offending anyone. I was always concerned that I would offend someone if I declined plans or left an after-hours event too soon. But since I had a dog waiting for me at home, no one blinked an eye if I said I needed to go feed or walk her.
By the end of senior year, I hated that my days as a college student were coming to an end. Because of Ginger’s support, I learned how to be much more independent and had formed a close group of friends. Instead of rushing home every weekend to be with my parents, I found myself hanging out with my friends at the local mall. I maintained excellent grades in my classes and finally felt myself thriving.
Having a pet while also attending college isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely worth it. The unconditional love of my emotional support animal helped me break out of my comfort zone, and experience college in the best way possible for me. If you’re considering adopting an emotional support animal, the bond that you share will almost certainly change your life for the better.
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