Sammy and Jessie

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Sammy and Jessie

Samantha Knapp, Reporter

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There’s a new student on campus. She loves the color red, has four legs, and finds class just as snooze worthy as the rest of us. This new student is my black lab, Jessie. To me, she’s more than a dog. She’s my best friend and lifesaver.

I have Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by stress, which often causes me great pain and sickness. As an emotional support animal, Jessie helps keeps my stress and anxiety to a minimum, which is crucial to fighting my disease.

She also helps to keep the pain at bay during a flare. She visits me every day during long hospital stays, comes with me to the doctors, sleeps with me when I’m sick and in pain, senses when I need her and makes me pet her until I calm down, and most importantly, she keeps the floors clean and eats up all the crumbs. Kinda like my own personal Benson.

An emotional support animal is different from a service dog because it can be a dog, cat, horse, pig, you name it. There is no special training other than basic obedience training, where the animal has to learn commands such as sit, stay, and down.

Emotional support animals, or ESAs, are treated as service animals. ESAs are protected under law according to the American with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. They can go in restaurants, stores, housing, regardless of pet policies, and even on planes. ESAs are often prescribed by a physician for mental disorders. In my case, Jessie helps to stabilize my mental health in order to prevent or manage a Crohn’s flare.

Last spring, Jessie began to join me in my classes as an emotional support animal. Students may wonder, “Why can’t she just keep the dog at home?” Keeping her at home defeats the purpose of having Jessie as an emotional support animal. She does so many things to make me feel better at school: her presence calms me down, eliminates stress and distracts me from my pain.

Yes, she may snore loudly in class sometimes and yes, “that smell” is her nasty farts, but with those adorable loving eyes it is hard to be angry at her. Jessie loves everyone she meets, so go ahead and pet her if I’m just chilling. Just please don’t feed her anything or else she won’t fit in her vest anymore.

Jessie’s love helps me make it through the worst of days. Having her around boosts my GPA, reduces my stress, and greatly improves my quality of life. She knows me better than anyone. I hope you guys get some joy from having her around too.

My only request to Pres students would be this: If you’re scared of dogs, not a dog person, or not used to dogs at school, please don’t run from her in the hallways. She will think you either want to play or need comforting so she’ll come towards you. Just walk away or, overcome your fear and ask if you can pet her. In the end, you’ll see that she’s just a sweet, loving dog.