It was during an Arthritic flare in November of 2017 when I started feeling less and less like myself, and it was only foreshadowing of what was to come. This winter has been one of the hardest I’ve faced in a long time, both mentally and physically. The weather has been cold and rainy, and there’s not been much sun. It’s been like being in Seattle, but without the culture and coffee to make up for the gloom. I sat in my counselor’s office with his service dog’s head in my lap, and we talked about why I was feeling so helpless.
My support system had changed dramatically since my move to college. I had no family nearby, all of my doctors were different, and when all I could do was sit under my heat blanket, I was actually alone. No one came in and out of my dorm or sat next to me like my family did. Talking about this helped me line everything up logically, but calmness that I’d craved was coming from something else: a golden retriever who was just doing his job.
My counselor and I discussed how my Arthritis cat hadn’t come to college with me. How could he? The poor kitty had been my helper since I was five years old, and the senior cat can barely jump up and down from the couch. There was no way I could move him to a new home and leave him scared and confused. “Maybe you should look into getting an Emotional Support Animal on campus.” He told me. I thought it was unnecessary. He made me promise to give it some thought and told me I should visit some of the animals at the animal shelter by campus to see if they made me feel better.
“Time spent with a cat is never wasted.” ― Colette
I held up my end of the bargain. On that cold, wet, gloomy afternoon I drove to the animal shelter and sat down on the floor with the cats they had loose. A huge, grumpy tuxedo cat with a few battle scars plopped down on my lap. I held him and his giant head snuggled up under my chin; he purred and fell asleep in my arms. I sat on the floor with that cat until the shelter closed. And then I went back. And I went back again. And finally, I realized this cat might bring me the joy I so desperately needed.
The process of documenting an ESA, as well as documenting one for a campus, is a grueling process. The whole thing took over three months to process, but it was so worth it. Bringing that huge cat home made my life so much better. Having a friend to sit with me through the flares helped me so much. When I went through a very bad bout of depression in February, the cat helped me through it. He nudged me awake every morning and would cry if I wasn’t nearby him. Knowing that I was wanted and needed, even if from a cat, gave me a reason to keep trying. I feel like he’s the biggest part of the reason I made it back to school.
Since my journey with Patches (my ESA) started, I’ve been sharing our journey. From an article I wrote on animals on campus for The Roar to his leash and command training, I’m finding purpose and joy through this furry critter who has a hard time meowing. I can honestly say that this cat is, and will continue to be, a huge part of my treatment. Not only for my mental illnesses but my physical illnesses as well.
Hadley and Patches