Whitworth student provides insight on the benefits of owning an emotional support animal

By Ruby Brady | Staff Writer

Kailey Gumke’s service dog Moose sits near her in class in Dixon Hall at Whitworth University, Spokane, Wash., Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. | Photo by Timara Doyle/ The Whitworthian *note from the photo editor, service animals and emotional support animals are not the same. See usserviceanimals.org for more information.

Third-year student, Jillian Larrabee lives in Ballard with her Emotional Support Animal (ESA), a pup named Ollie. Larrabee described Ollie’s adoption story, which started with her seeing a car in the Chipotle parking lot bearing a sign that read “puppies for sale.” 

“[I] saw this little man, [and] instantly fell in love,” she said. 

After this encounter, Larrabee adopted Ollie and worked on getting him approved as an ESA. She can have Ollie on-campus with her because of Educational Support Services (ESS), a program that works with students to coordinate accommodations that address disability-related needs.

An accommodation favored by students is an ESA. An ESA, oftentimes a dog or a cat, lives in its owner’s room to provide comfort and stability.  

People often think service animals and ESAs are one and the same, but there’s a major difference between the two. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the main distinction between ESAs and service animals is that the service animal has received “specialized training” in order to serve an individual with a specific disability. Meanwhile, ESAs don’t need any formalized training to be considered as such. 

Service animals can enter all establishments with their owners because they perform specific tasks to help their owners with daily life. ESAs are restricted to only certain places, such as college dorms or apartments.  

For Larrabee, the process of getting Ollie approved as an ESA moved swiftly. “I contacted ESS with Katie [McCray]. We got it approved quick,” she said. Because Ollie was old enough to receive his vaccinations, he moved into Ballard without any delay. 

Now, Ollie assists Larrabee with her anxiety and depression as she goes through her college education. “I have been struggling with pretty severe depression [and] anxiety [for] six-plus years,” she said.  

Before coming to Whitworth, Larrabee interacted with animals frequently and recognized the emotional benefit it served her. “Back home, I always had access to my two dogs, [and] I rode horses,” she said. “Animals are just so much better than people. They’re there for you, they listen to you.” 

The ADA shares that ESAs really can lend a helping paw, just as Larrabee said. By providing companionship, ESAs can relieve loneliness and aid in managing depression, anxiety and certain phobias.   

Larrabee said that everyone in Ballard adores Ollie, and that he’s essentially a communal ESA.  

Ollie has many friends outside of Ballard, too. “I get stopped regularly. When we walk by to go outside for potty breaks, everyone says hello,” she said.  

Ollie is always looking for new friends. If you see him and Larrabee walking around campus, don’t be a stranger and say hello.

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