Meet the Emotional Support Animals of Catawba!Jessica Brown March 23, 2021 0 COMMENTS
At Catawba College, we strive to be an inclusive environment and with April 11 being National Pet Day, we thought it would be educational, informative and fun to do a profile on some of the emotional support animals at Catawba. Courtney Howard, a senior majoring in communication with minors in English and history, along with her dog, and Colby Collins- Peterson, a senior majoring in writing with a minor in art, along with her rabbit, will be the subjects of this spotlight.
Me: “What is your pet’s name and breed?”
Courtney: “My dog is named Ozzie and he’s an Australian Shepherd.”
Colby: “My rabbit is named Balthazar. I got the name from a book series/ “Skyrim.” He’s a Holland/German lop mix, although I am unsure of how much of what he is.”
Me: “How long have you had it?”
Courtney: “I have only had him a little over a year, but it feels like he has been a part of my family forever. He was actually a stray and showed up at my house last January one morning when it was freezing cold outside. His story is super interesting to my family and me because we actually found and came in contact with his former owners, but they had no interest in wanting him back and said that they had tried giving him away to several different families. Finding out that no one wanted this sweet boy was this biggest shock to everyone! Anyone who meets him absolutely falls in love with him and sees exactly why I knew he was meant to be with us when we met him. It was the biggest blessing that I never knew I needed.”
Colby: “I have had him for five years, almost his entire life. I rescued him from a pet store after his previous owners had broken his jaw and returned him.”
Me: “What does he help you with and how?”
Courtney: “He helps me in so many ways. I have always struggled with my anxiety, whether it is social or general, and with Ozzie being by my side in class or even out around campus or in my dorm and doing something as simple as laying there and letting me hold his leash in a public setting or touch his head, helps me stay calm. He also helps me a lot if I have a panic attack when I least expect it.”
Colby: “I have diagnosed anxiety, depression, OCD and trichotillomania. He helps with his presence and understands my ticks and triggers for certain anxiety attacks. He stays near me to keep me focused on him rather than the said issue at hand.”
According to the American Kennel Club, what sets emotional support animals apart from service animals or therapy animals, is that they are not trained to complete any specific tasks. They simply comfort their owners with their presence alone, although equally as valid.
Me: “What is your favorite memory, or memories, of your pet at Catawba?”
Courtney: “One of my favorite memories with Ozzie living on campus with me is not necessarily in the past yet, but I think that it will always be when he gets to see his favorite professors before class or when we walk to and from class and he sees everyone on campus. He does not know a stranger anymore and everyone greets him with the biggest smile there is.”
Colby: “My favorite memories here at Catawba were back before there was an animal ban for certain buildings. He would run around the bookstore and have a blast, almost as if he was shopping himself. I also enjoyed bringing him to football games, before the same rule was put into place. He had his own Catawba College shirt he would wear. And of course the walks in his stroller are a favorite.”
Me: “What do you think is an important point about ESAs that you wish more of the general public understood?”
Courtney: “I think the most important point about support animals that I wish the general public understood, is that it means the world to me that everyone is so accepting of me bringing a dog with me everywhere I go, so I am sure that other people that need an emotional support dog would feel the same. At first, I was worried that people would think it was weird or strange, but to everybody else, it is just a chance to see their buddy Ozzie. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”
Colby: “People have to understand that just because he does not have an official vest on, does not mean he is free to try to pet without permission, much like a service animal.”
Me: “If you could change anything about Catawba’s animal accommodation policies, what would it be?”
Courtney: “Honestly, there isn’t anything about Catawba’s animal accommodation policy that I would change. When I had talked to my doctor about getting Ozzie certified to be an emotional support dog, I found out that I needed to talk to Mr. Daryl Bruner who was so easy to work with and made the process as easy as possible for me. Within a week, we had Ozzie moved in with my roommate Olivia and I. Overall, Oz and I both just want to thank everyone who loves him, and if you ever see him around campus, feel free to say hello to him!”
Colby: “I would probably change the ability of bringing animals into buildings for specific activities. I completely understand animals not being allowed in the classrooms, dining halls and specific spaces, but I personally would enjoy having the option of bringing my animal to counseling services when I have an appointment. But anywhere else I can understand as to why they are not allowed. Also for move in day when someone moves in by themselves with their animal, they should not give strikes/warnings to people not wanting to leave animals in a hot car/ in the car by themselves.”
Talking to different ESA owners, I noticed a recurring theme, that oftentimes both the pets and the owners save each other. The symbiotic bond between humans and animals is immense and profound. While this pattern is inspiring, it is crucial that we continue to foster a culture of tolerance and understanding in order to optimize the experiences of people like Courtney and Colby, as well as pets like Ozzie and Balthazar.
Jessica Brown is the Editor-in-Chief of both The Pioneer Newspaper and The Arrowhead Literary Arts Magazine for Catawba College. She is a senior graduating in May 2022. She will receive a Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Marketing and Communications with a minor in English.