Why I am Grateful for My Emotional Support Animal

For years I’ve been in therapy—sitting in various offices describing my various issues, taking the various drugs prescribed to me, telling the same stories I’ve told hundreds of times just to receive the same advice I’ve gotten just as often. At the start of my second year at Kenyon, however, things changed. I was still suffering from anxiety and depression that ranged from livable to absolutely crippling, and while the medications and counseling I was receiving helped some, I was once again left looking for something else to aid in my healing and recovery.

The first semester of this year, my on-campus counselor suggested a new course of action—pursuing a housing accommodation in the form of an emotional support animal. I’ve always had pets and I have loved every one of them, and while the idea of having a pet on campus had crossed my mind as something that may be helpful, I had always pushed the thought away or been discouraged from pursuing it by those around me. When my counselor brought it up in a session, though, I decided to take this option seriously and follow her advice.​I filled out and filed the paperwork, and then I just had to wait. Shortly after my paperwork was filed I received a response—I was granted an ESA. Starting the next semester, I would be living in a single room with an emotional support cat. I was excited and nervous, but I hoped that this would be a positive change in my life.

Once winter break started, I began the search for the perfect emotional support cat. Eventually I found one—a six-year-old medium-haired calico named Willow. We bonded almost immediately, and though I’ve only had her for around a month, we’ve already become the best of friends. Her impact on me is palpable—she needs and readily gives attention and love, and by accepting her love and affection and by giving it in return I have the comfort, support, and structure I need to go about my day when in the past I could not. Even though pets are a lot of work, the work is exactly what I need to feel motivated to leave my bed when either my anxiety or depression are particularly debilitating. On those days I feel no desire to care for myself, I still know that I need to care for her no matter what. So I get up, I get dressed, I care for her, and I begin my day.

As I have said, however, pets are indeed a lot of work. While even in my lowest moments I find the ability to care for my emotional support animal, others may not have this ability. Pets need almost constant care, and the decision to adopt one, especially as an emotional support animal, is one that should not be taken lightly. While the benefits an ESA can offer are innumerable, the responsibilities that they bring are also innumerable. If you or your counselor believe that you would truly benefit from an ESA, absolutely pursue getting one. Sometimes exactly what a person needs to aid in healing is the love and support that a pet, an ESA, can provide.​Image Credit: Annmarie Morrison