By Cait Kemp
Going off to college means saying many goodbyes to friends, family and other loved ones. The hardest goodbyes can often be to the family pets, who are there for people whenever they are feeling down or need a little extra support.
However, the sound of a collar jingling can be heard as one walks through the door of LC 106, where they are greeted by none other than Nugget.
No, Nugget is not a stowaway that was snuck onto campus. Rather, he is a certified emotional support dog for Springfield College junior, Ari Susi.
Susi got Nugget last spring during quarantine because she felt the lack of what an animal can bring to someone emotionally.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, I really wanted a puppy because my dog had died last summer, and I was like ‘Mom, we’re going to be home for a while, can we please get a dog.’ She finally cracked when we met him,” said Susi.
Nugget was not intended to be an emotional support dog when Susi decided to get him, but she learned about emotional support animals and thought it would be beneficial to certify him as one for her.
“So, I have really bad anxiety and depression and he helps a lot with that… because obviously with COVID everything was kind of, like dark and bad so he made everything feel a little bit better,” she said.
Initially, it was not the plan to bring Nugget to school, but Susi quickly realized that the option would be something that could help not just her, but Nugget as well.
Susi said, “Three weeks into school my mom called me and she was like, ‘The dog’s wicked depressed and he’s just not himself at all,’… I got it all approved with the school, (and) everything was so much better.
“That’s the only thing that’s really sucked, is since he is a pandemic puppy, he has super bad separation anxiety from me, but I think the separation anxiety is mutual and the joke is that I’m his emotional support human at this point,” Susi said.
The process was simple: the school only required a doctor’s note and an application to become approved to have an emotional support animal on campus. Although taking care of a pet can be difficult, she has been able to have a lot of fun with Nugget and share that excitement with others around her.
“It’s been really cool and I think he’s made a lot of people happy because all of our friends get excited too… I think it helped all of us in ways.”
Susi’s roommates were on board to have the new edition to the suite, and everyone has enjoyed having a puppy around all the time.
“Nugget’s like the dog I never had. It’s so exciting walking into the suite to him running to me, especially when I’ve had a bad day or I’m stressed, having him greet me at the door makes everything okay,” said one of Susi’s roommates, Marena DeSimone.
The love and appreciation for Nugget is a common theme among friends and community members on campus.
Another friend, Elizabeth Rinaldi, said, “I’ve never had a pet, but being with Nugget makes me understand the missing piece of my heart that I was missing without a pet. He truly makes all the gray clouds go away.”
“I didn’t think it was going to be that big of a commitment in a way, and it ended up being a lot more work than I thought,” said Susi. “But my roommates have been so awesome and really help me a lot with him, and my friends and I’m really appreciative of that.”
Nugget has not only brought smiles to the faces of Susi and her group but also many students on campus. He has become an icon, with a growing Instagram account (@nugget_unleashed) where followers can keep up with his life. He is widely known by Springfield College, and truly is a ray of sunshine for everyone who has been able to meet him.
Photo: Ari Susi