Desperately missing your pet now that the cold winter months are upon us? Considering adopting an emotional support animal? Considering it now that I've mentioned it? Think about it again, then think about it even harder.
Emotional support animals are not service animals specially trained for various physical disabilities. Rather, these are assistance animals that simply provide comfort and companionship, so the process of getting one of these pets is quite easy if you are already involved with Counseling and Psychological Services or an outside therapist.
I myself adopted an 8 month old dog last spring through CPS and Disability Services, a process that took no more than one or two months from beginning to end. I named the Miniature Pinscher/Dachshund mix Theodore Watson, Theo for short, and we instantly bonded. He was also a major hit on campus, forming a large fan club (he's quite the ladies man, even to this day).
Here are the pros to having an emotional support animal:These pets provide unparalleled comfort and companionship. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or plain loneliness, a pet might be a perfect and rather necessary addition to your life. If animals don’t make your sleep much worse, they probably make your sleep much better. I for one sleep easy knowing there’s someone else by my side. The added responsibility of having a pet might be just the motivation you need. Don’t feel like getting up or going outside? Too bad. Your dog needs a walk or your cat needs to be fed. Your pet will undoubtedly win you some new popularity. If you are very public with your pet, be ready to be approached daily by admirers. This is extremely helpful for those who struggle with making new friends.
Unfortunately, despite these pros, there are also a lot of cons. To name just a few:Having a pet can be like having a child: the responsibility can occasionally get to be too much. Your pet should be there to help relieve your stress, not create so much more that it becomes unbearable. The time commitment, depending on your pet, can be immense. You need to determine if the extra time you have after classes and work is enough for a pet. If you adopt an animal that needs constant supervision and attention, your social life will absolutely suffer. If you choose to adopt a dog for example, you can only leave your pet alone for so many hours at a time. When you’re out, you’ll constantly be worried about your pet and its needs. That’s no way to have fun. Finally, there are expenses. Are you prepared to pay for not only supplies but also vet bills? Being a responsible pet owner involves taking proper medical care of your pet, and Disability Services will not allow you to skip out on this (you are required to prove that your animal is healthy). Then add in travel expenses and other random expenditures... this is getting costly.
In the end, I was forced to take Theo back home to Ohio and leave him there with my family members and two family dogs. I honestly believe he is much happier now, but I still need him for all of the reasons I originally did. I've decided to try again, but with a lower maintenance animal: a cat.
I feel incredibly guilty for adopting one animal, giving up on it, then adopting another. After my experience, I urge you to NOT adopt a dog — or at least not a dog with normal to high energy. I absolutely love dogs as a self-proclaimed dog person, but as a busy college student living in a tiny space, I was not capable of loving my young, energetic dog correctly. It is quite likely that you aren't either.
Please do adopt an animal if you feel that it would meet your emotional needs, but think of going with a cat or smaller creature (I even know of someone with an emotional support tarantula). If you absolutely must have a dog, pick a low energy breed or senior dog. Yes, that puppy is adorable, but an older dog will better suit your lifestyle. Consider your needs, but also consider the needs of your animal.
Lauren Diaz is a junior in CC studying creative writing.