Capturing the connection between students and their emotional support animals

Emotional support animals, or ESAs, are becoming an increasingly popular way for college students to support their mental well-being. AJ Chambers, Haleigh Hayford, Peighton Irish-Arrnet, and Erica Lentz share how the bond they have with their ESAs benefits them.

AJ and Anansi

AJ Chambers stated they were feeling really depressed. Their mom and therapist suggested they get a cat. Chambers adopted Anansi last summer. Anansi is less than a year old and he is the first cat Chambers has owned. “You can’t be sad when you wake up to a cat licking your nose,” Chambers said. They describe Anansi as “pretty chill”, but a troublemaker when he wants attention. Chambers enjoys his company and likes having someone to come home to.

Haleigh and Hazel

“She’s honestly my best friend,” Haleigh Hayford said about her pug Hazel. Hayford is a sexual assault survivor. Hayford says Hazel brings her comfort and describes her pug as an excellent cuddle buddy. Her experiences inspired her to study psychology. She wants to open her own clinic to help other survivors and she hopes to use animals in her practice.

Peighton and Bosley

Peighton Irish-Arrnet says that she and her Persian cat Bosley depend on each other. Bosely will sit on the stairs and wait for Irish-Arrnet to return to the apartment that they share with Irish-Arrnet’s roommate and her cat Smudge. She enjoys Bosley’s company and having a fuzzy friend to come home to. Irish-Arrnet says Bosley is in tune with her emotions and has helped her overcome a recent breakup. “He’s my best friend and I’m closer to him than most people.”

Erica, Simon, Theo, and Milo

Erica Lentz lives with her three rats, Simon, Theo, and Milo. Lentz adopted Simon and Theo during her sophomore year of college to help with her generalized anxiety disorder and the stress from thyroid cancer. “It’s nice to know that someone has your back,” Lentz said. Milo was recently rescued from being a feeder rat. Lentz said it didn’t take long for Simon, Theo, and Milo to get along because rats are social animals. Lentz grew up in a household with multiple animals, including rats. She commented one of the hardest things about caring for these pets is their short life span. “Although your time is short with them, it’s time well spent.”