Emotional support animals are, as stated by the American Kennel Society, a “pet that provides emotional support and comfort that helps them deal with challenges that might otherwise compromise their quality of life.” Usually, when people hear about emotional support animals (ESA), they automatically think of a dog or a cat, mostly because they are the most popular pets to have. However, a large variety of animals can be an emotional support animal. According to emotionalpetsupport.com, all domesticated animals
may qualify as an ESA. This includes but is not limited to dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, etc.
Now I know what you may be thinking, “how could something like a guinea pig be an emotional support animal?”, and well, it’s quite simple. The service animals provide their owners with a sense of comfort and happiness that is much needed depending on their psychological and/or emotional disability. Take it from me, someone that has a dog and a guinea pig as an emotional support animal.
Theo is a registered emotional support dog that has provided me with constant comfort for many years. He is such a sweet, gentle dog that never fails to put a smile on my face. Whenever I have a problem or I’m feeling a bit blue, I call him over and he immediately comes running to me and sits in my lap for me to pet him. I’ve always considered him “my” dog out of everyone in the family because he always wants to be by my side, whether I’m watching tv, eating dinner, going to bed, etc. He is my safe haven and I know whenever something is bothering or upsetting me, he is there to help me through it. My mom frequently takes Theo into work with her for her students to interact with because for some people, petting a dog and feeling its fur is soothing and relaxes them when they are stressed. I would love to take Theo with me wherever I go but he is the family dog, so I have to keep him at home with my other family members but also with my other dog, so he doesn’t get lonely. According to Service Dog Certifications, you can have more than one emotional support animals, as there are no specific rules stating the maximum number of ESAs you may have. Due to this, I was able to obtain another emotional support animal – a guinea pig.
About a year ago, I felt an overwhelming sense of unhappiness and I was always anxious about what was going on in my life with schoolwork and my personal life. As the American Institute of Stress states, “80% of students report feeling stressed sometimes or often, and 34% report having feelings of depression.” College students especially are struggling to keep up with all of the academic obstacles being thrown their way. I was easily becoming overloaded with stress being away from home and had no way to cope with it as I would lock myself in my room and isolate myself from the outside world, hoping it would all go away. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works, even though we all wish we could simply run away from our problems. Animals have always been one of my favorite things in life for so many reasons, I’m absolutely obsessed with them. How could you not be? I finally knew it was time for me to take the steps towards getting another emotional support animal, and for me, it made sense to get a guinea pig, who I named Chester.
Chester has been my best friend ever since I adopted him. The second I met him, he ran right up my shoulder and got tangled in my hair, he didn’t want to be put back down into his small cage. I should’ve thought that this was an act of craziness and opted for a calmer guinea pig, but instead, I saw this as an “I want a forever home, please pick me!” moment, it was like he knew he wanted to come home with me. Ever since this happened, we have been glued to one another, I am absolute, 100% obsessed with this little guy. He provides me comfort for when times are tough and life gets hectic, in order to help with these challenges, I am able to go directly to him, pick him up, and hold him. The feeling of him in my arms acts as immediate stress relief and allows me to take time to calm down and relax. I am able to come back from a long day and instead of getting in bed and becoming emotional about life, I am greeted by an excited carrot-loving piggy that is fully ready to be held and loved and is prepared to provide me with delight.
Being a college student myself, it is important for me to take the personal steps to improve my mental health. This is a time in life where there are many things being thrown at you left and right, it’s difficult to keep track of everything that is happening at once. My advice to other students that are dealing with anxiety or depression and feel as if an emotional support animal would be beneficial to you, go to your doctor and/or therapist and discuss it with them. They would be able to give you a note that states you need an ESA in order to help with these mental disabilities. According to habri.org, the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute, 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership. If you feel as if an emotional support animal is something that will help you on a daily basis and aid you to combat your struggles, do not hesitate in taking the necessary step in obtaining one.
From the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you to Theo and Chester for being there for me when I feel like the world is against me. I am extremely grateful for everything you do and the unconditional love that you provide me with each and every single day. I will forever continue to return the undivided love that you have given me by spoiling you with your favorite toys and treats, but also with an unlimited amount of hugs and kisses.
Credit: All photos taken by the author