When senior Sophia Nation wakes up next to the furry face of her one- year-old cat, Orville Catenbocker, she can’t help but smile.
Nation is one of several students on campus who have been approved to have emotional support animals in their dorm rooms. Pacific University recently modified its policy on the requirements of having emotional support animals, allowing students to receive referrals from on-campus therapists. This has made getting an approval to have an emotional support animal more convenient and resulted in an increased number of animals on campus.
Director of Learning Support Services (LSS) Kim Garrett said LSS tries to make the process as simple and quick for students as possible.
As of now, there are eight students with emotional support animals on campus.
Nation and Orville have been cohabitating in a first floor Burlingham apartment for three weeks and, other than the occasional counter playtime jump, Nation said he has been a great addition to her daily routine.
“Every day is a little better because I have him with me,” Nation said. “It’s cheesy but it’s true.”
Nation said she started the process of getting an emotional support animal after she started getting overwhelmed with her senior year and saw several of her friends getting support animals.
“The process is pretty easy once you get your recommendation but the therapist you see is really thorough in making sure you really need an animal,” Nation said.
Once a student has been given a recommendation from a therapist or medical provider, they have to go through Learning Support Services and Housing to be able to have an animal in their room. Given that all roommates agree and the animal is healthy and can handle being inside most of the time, Nation said the process only takes a few days.
While cats are the highest recommended emotional support animals, students also have dogs, reptiles and even hedgehogs.
Senior Emily Webb and her Chihuahua mix, Mitra, lives across the hall from Nation and were also approved to live together this year.
Webb said she had a bad depressive episode last year and having Mitra around helps keep her grounded and gives her support.
“[Mitra] helps by giving me a reason to get out of bed in the morning when I’m having really bad days,” Webb said. “When I need it, she curls up next to me when I have to cry.”
When Mitra isn’t running full- speed into the windows of Burlingham at night, Webb said she motivates her and reminds her to think of her needs. Mitra also helps her meet new people by drawing attention around campus.
“She steals the hearts of everyone she meets,” Webb said.
Since emotional support animals aren’t service animals, they aren’t allowed in classrooms or outside of the rooms and common spaces.
Nation said she misses Orville a lot during classes but knowing she gets to hang out with him and decompress when she gets home.
While having animals is a big adjustment and responsibility.
Webb said it is well worth the love she gets in return from Mitra.
Nation said she even plans on getting Orville acclimated to a leash and having playdates with her friend’s cat in McCormick.
“If I didn’t have him, my stress levels would be a lot higher,” said Nation.
Students interested in starting the process to live with an emotional support animal should contact Kim Garrett in Learning and Support Services.