Room 106 in the basement of Reed may look like an ordinary dorm room on the outside with a “Resident’s Assistance” sign and the name “Nicole” on the door. If you walk into the doorway, look around the single room with one bed, one closet, one desk and chair, you probably won’t see anything out of the ordinary. Until, you see something to your left, peering through hanging jackets.
Coat hangers swing, and something orange peaks through the gaps in clothing for a split second. Green eyes in darkness of the closet curiously watch as you enter. You go to move the jackets to see what this mysterious creature is and cautiously reach your hand into the closet outcove. Afraid of what is to come next, you feel something soft… something round… and when you finally open your eyes and push away the fabric barrier between you and the unknown…there lying on his side looking up at you is none other than the 25 lb, 10-year old friendly, furry, cat named Holaday.
Nicole Silva, a senior at Springfield College, is one of the first to be permitted to have an emotional support animal living with her in her dorm room. The issue of colleges permitting support therapy animals on campus has emerged in higher education discussion in recent years, and after two years of working on a policy, they have finally arrived here at Springfield College.
Deb Dickens, Director of Learning Support Services said, “With the support animals, basically it’s our hope that whatever benefit it provides for the student, it will improve their quality of life by having the animal in the residence halls.”
Hidden in the depths of the Springfield college website, you can find a form to request a service animal. In order to qualify for a support animal, the student must show documentation of a disability by a psychiatrist, physician or therapist and that this animal would be therapeutic or help the student in some kind of way. There are clear expectations and rules to follow such as the animal only being permitted in the dorm room, and there are residence hall checks to make sure that nothing is damaged, which the student will be responsible for paying for.
Silva said the most difficult part about having Holaday with her is, “I have a constant internal battle about leaving him when I have class, but then I remember that he’s an indoor cat and kind of just chills anyway and is very content in his hiding spot in my closet.”
Although Holaday is too afraid to venture out of his new dorm room home with an open dorm, he always accepts attention given to him, especially from girls. Silva describes him as a “little flirty cat.” At night time, however, especially living alone, Silva says that having Holaday there when she needs someone for support is beneficial to her happiness.
Living over in Gulick, is 5-month old, 15 pound chihuahua mix, Indie. Indie gently curled up in owner Rachel Slade’s lap while taking a break from one of her daily walks in between Rachel’s classes. Every morning, Slade wakes up at 7 a.m. to take out Indie and prepare for her day. For some, this may seem like an unwanted chore, but for Rachel having Indie is a positive and beneficial experience.
“She structures everything. The responsibility of taking care of something else that depends on you definitely helps me,” Slade said. “I don’t have the choice to stay in bed all day being sad, I have to get up.”
Dogs can be a handful to take care of. However, the statement that a dog is “a man’s best friend” couldn’t be any more true, and the support animals are a clear example of how both parties in the relationship benefit.
“I love that every part of life she experiences will be with me,” Slade said. “I am her whole world and it’s adorable.”
Tuesday, Sept. 27 was also Dog Day on campus, as dogs with K9’s for Kids, Pediatric Therapy Unit, a volunteer, non-profit organization, were hanging around outside on Naismith Green ready to be petted and loved.
Students on campus were all ecstatic to have this time to pet dogs and take a mental break from their days. Slade said, “Not many people get this opportunity, so I want to be able to share it. I think it’s super beneficial for everybody. I want people to come up to us and say hi and pet her. If you ever see us around campus, feel free to come and pet her!”
This new policy change has added another source of support and yet another action proving how dedicated Springfield College is to ensuring the wellness of each and every student in all three aspects of spirit mind and body.
“It is important to remember this is our first semester implementing the policy and we may have some situations we need to address and make some changes or adjustments, but so far it seems to be working out and we haven’t had any problems yet,” said Deb Dickens.