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Emotional Support Animals Are so Important — Let’s Appreciate Them

You’ve probably heard the argument before: emotional support dogs are just an excuse for owners to get their pets on planes with them and not have to pay for extra housing fees. However, for many owners of ESAs, their pets are so much more than just a convenience — they are their support systems and motivation to get up every single day. Being someone who drives home nearly every weekend just to see their dog, I already recognize the power that animals can have in helping to calm our anxiety and make us feel comfortable. ESAs come in all shapes and sizes, but all are equally as important to their owner's wellbeing. Here are just four of the many reasons why emotional support animals are so incredibly important, and why they shouldn’t be overlooked by society just because of a few people who take advantage of the benefits.

  1. 1. Constant companionship

    Girl lying on bed with cat

    In my opinion, one of the hardest parts about college is finding that perfect mix of socialization. Part of me always prefers to be alone, but it would be silly to think that no one wants a little attention now and then. The incredible thing about an emotional support animal is that they provide their owner with constant companionship. You know they are always there, and they will be there in times of need to comfort you and cuddle. Owning an ESA helps to ensure that even if you spend a lot of time alone, you are never completely isolated and you always have someone to keep you busy and excited. Plus, you can tell them all your secrets and confide in them, and they will love you nonetheless.

  2. 2. Comfort during times of stress and anxiety

    Anxiety can definitely run higher at college, and I often find myself wishing I was home throughout the week so that I could hug my dog and have him to love on me right when I need it the most. ESAs provide their owners with so much peace whenever mental health gets the best of them. It's hard to stare at their goofy, playful faces without cracking a smile or at least feeling some sort of comfort and happiness. Knowing that they only want to make you happy and give you love is such a great feeling to have at all times — they rely on you just as much as you rely on them.

  3. 3. Motivation and purpose

    Some days it's hard to get out of bed. It's just a fact of life. But when you struggle with mental illness, this fact of life can occur a lot more frequently, and to a much higher degree. Sometimes it feels nearly impossible to leave your room, let alone your bed. Having an ESA helps immensely when this has become a more common occurrence. They motivate you to get out of bed, because you know that they are relying on you to take care of them and keep them happy too. Even by just taking a 30-minute walk to give your pet some exercise can bring you joy, while also helping you to take small steps of your own at getting out and about every day.

  4. 4. Increased socialization

    Anna Schultz-Girls Laughing Hanging Out With Puppy And Computer

    Let's be real...who doesn't want to say hi to a cute animal they see on the street? Having an ESA is a great way for people to reach out to you and ask about them, and they will quickly begin to realize why they help you so much on a day-to-day basis. Even just getting passing smiles from strangers on the street can brighten your day, and you will realize how much joy your animal brings others as well. Even if you don't feel like talking to anyone, you can probably count on your pet to get excited for you when meeting new people.

Beyond all things, emotional support animals provide a sense of comfort for their owners, one that cannot be defined in any specific way. A partnership and a bond that forms for a lifetime are absolutely priceless. When you hear about someone's emotional support animal, you realize just how vital these pets are to some people and their health, and our health should always come first. Lauren, a UCF student and Her Campus writer, told me about her emotional support dog, Toby — you can tell just how important he is to her.

"I have an emotional support dog (aka the love of my life) and he’s helped me through literally everything! Honestly, there are some days when I don’t want to leave my bed, but I do because I know I need to take care of him. When I’m anxious, I feel like he knows, and he curls up in my lap. He’s the best thing to ever happen to me."

While ESAs might not be the best choice for everyone, they are an incredible source of healing and comfort for those in need. People shouldn’t be embarrassed to admit the necessity for them to have an ESA just because they are worried about facing judgment from others. Let's celebrate these amazing animals and shower them with the love they deserve!