| Richie DePaoli

This Time, We Aren't Leaving the Dog at Home

Some people are completely cut-out for going off to college; leaving the homestead and going into the world alone. However, for some, being away from home and being on their own is too much for them and they require company. This is where therapy animals come in. Therapy animals are pets that are officially registered as a type of service animal. When we think of service animals, we typically think of registered dogs that service blind people, or others with serious disabilities. However, pets can also be registered as therapy animals and are used to help people with more psychological aspects such as anxiety, enochlophobia (fear of crowds), or agoraphobia (fear of uncomfortable situations).

            Every college has its specific rules about pets. Some schools let certain pets in certain dorms. Other schools have a strict “no pet” policy. Whatever the school’s rules may be, any individual is allowed to have a registered therapy pet, no matter where they live on campus, as long as their roommate approves (assuming they have a roommate). Of course the individual with the registered animal must follow a small set of rules such as picking up after your pet outside, making sure the pet doesn’t cause any disturbance like noise or otherwise, etc.

            Therapy pets help thousands of students get through school every year. For some, if it weren’t for their therapy animals, they wouldn’t be able to make it through their college career with all the anxiety. I have known several people with therapy pets that lived on campus, whether it be acquaintances or old close friends. I did have a close friend during my years here at college who had a therapy dog, which she got about four months into the school year. When she arrived at school, she loved it here; the people the campus, the small size of the school, the teachers, etc. However, in those four months, she was having a very hard time being away from home and her family. She was an animal lover throughout her whole life and grew up with cats and dogs and horses that she loved very much, and coming to college all alone with no pet to keep her company began to overwhelm her with anxiety and a bit of depression. During Christmas break she went to her doctor and was diagnosed with chronic anxiety and mild depression and decided she was going to register her dog as a therapy dog so she could take her back to school.

            The process was fairly easy and when she came back, the difference was unbelievable. She was smiling a lot more than she used to. Anytime she got stressed or felt down she would just sit in her room and play with her dog and wrestle and pet her. When I asked her about how it helped her she said that it was like having a very close best friend who can cheer you up no matter what without having to be concerned with what was making her upset. She said that having her dog with her at school helped her mind and her heart connect to home even when she was four hours away. Anytime she felt alone or was having a hard time being away, she always had a piece of home waiting for her in her room.

            Therapy animals not only helps kids through college, or any individual cope with going through a hard time in life, but they also save lives. There are cases, whether you hear about them or not, of people being in very dark places and very depressed, but being saved by having loving pets around. Even military veterans can be saved by them. A veteran may come home and suffer from extreme PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and possible become suicidal. Registering an animal and having something that depends on them and loves the eternally can save their lives.

            I am dedicating this blog this week to everyone who has been saved by their therapy animal, which coincides well with this past Monday, May 18th, which was National Therapy Animal Day. So remember, whether you are coming home from the military, or just going off alone to college, there is always someone who loves you, even if it is a wonderful four-legged creature.