There is speculation as to whether ESA owners really need their pets or just like having them around, but for Abramovitz, there is no question that Kenny makes everything better. “It gets me out of bed,” she said, which is something she struggled with over the past year and contributed to her dropping classes.
Therapy pets, however, require a certain temperament and training to provide emotional comfort. Universities are taking advantage of these animals with pet therapy programs. Shannon Noonan runs the Carleton University dog therapy sessions with her dog, Blue. “Even just a five-minute visit with Blue brightens people’s day,” she said.
During Blue’s office hours, students come in to pet him, feed him snacks, and play with him. “Just the act of petting, as well, in another sense is really a mindful activity and it brings you away from all the screens that we have and all the pressures of everyday stress,” Noonan said.
According to O’Neill, a dog should only be doing therapy for six years in order to prevent deteriorating mental health.
Having just started Blue’s therapy sessions in March, Noonan has not considered how long Blue will work, but she is very mindful of his mental health. “He’s just my normal dog on a normal day,” said Noonan. She walks him, feeds him, and makes sure to limit his office hours to two hours a week.
Watch the full interview below:
As O’Neill said, it is important to keep a balanced schedule for a dog. Both Abramovitz and Smith try to get their dogs out of the house, even if that just means the front yard or the apartment balcony.
Smith said she feels bad Scotty does not have a big yard to run around, and she cannot always take him out front because the landlord might catch him, but she plans to keep Scotty for as long as possible. It is amazing she said, “to come home to someone who loves you so much.” The emotional support Scotty provides is far greater than the risk of having to send him back home.