Emotional support animals provide relief

AddThis

Photo Credit: Noel Mahouch | Daily Texan Staff

Coping with the stress of college can be challenging, but a few UT students have found a furry solution to their problems.

Studies show interaction with therapy animals can decrease peoples’ levels of stress. Particularly around finals and midterms, UT has been known to bring therapy dogs and fundraising petting zoos to different spots
around campus.

Mathematics and sociology junior Karalyne Martinez left her dog, Max, at home during her freshman year, but when she began to notice she was struggling with grades and her stress levels, she began to crave the comfort of an animal friend. Martinez worked with UT Student Services to get Max classified as an emotional support animal so he could live with Martinez in Kinsolving during her sophomore year.

“The college experience for me has been marked by episodes of depression and episodes of stress for sure so it’s nice to have him,” Martinez said. “Having Max has made a world of difference.”

Martinez said she prioritizes her time to focus on caring for Max because investing time and energy in her pet, which can’t care for itself, helps motivate her.

“To many people, it can seem like an added responsibility, but what I get from walking with Max is a peace of mind and a pause from constantly checking things off my to do list,” Martinez said. “I don’t see it as a chore, I see it as something that’s rewarding for me.”

Undeclared freshman Carlee Bradley bought her cat, Callisto, her senior year of high school. When she came to college, Bradley brought Callisto with her to college to help cope with stress, depression and PTSD. 

“(Callisto) definitely can’t cure anything,” Bradley said. “When I do have a bad day I just go home and she always knows when I’m upset and cuddles with me. Even playing with her relieves a lot of stress.”

Bradley’s positive experiences owning Callisto led her to recommend an emotional support animal to her future roommate, biochemistry sophomore Shams Alkamil. Alkamil became stressed about school after she was placed on academic probation and found it difficult to relieve stress within her friend groups. To help, Alkamil bought Moby, an emotional support cat.

“Friendships haven’t been as great as they should be so having an animal helps replace that in some aspects,” Alkamil said. “With an animal, there’s a comfort in laying down and not saying anything. There’s no responsibility to fill in the blanks.”

Martinez, Bradley and Alkamil all said students considering adopting or buying a pet should make sure they have enough time and money to devote to the animal.

They also said the process obtaining permission for an emotional support animal in on campus dorms through Services for Students with Disabilities can take time and is difficult, requiring an outside doctor’s note and time to get the request approved. Alkamil said her process took about a month and a half, while Bradley said her process took two weeks. 

Martinez said her daily walks with Max were worth the lengthy process and are a priority because of the benefits she gets from them. She said she feels less isolated when people stop to pet Max and chat with her.

“Max can light up the room and bring smiles to people’s faces,” Martinez said. “A dog is the one animal that loves you more than you love yourself. Your pet is going to be there to give you whatever you need.”