By Kerry Tinga
“Come to school tomorrow!,” I saw my friend message me on the Messenger App.
During exam season I tend to stay away from school, choosing instead to study at coffee shops and then, once they close for the day, at home. I find that being around other people who are stressed gives me unnecessary anxiety.
“No seriously come in, someone said there will be goats there tomorrow,” my friend added to her first message.
It took me a moment to take in what she messaged me late that night. Did I perhaps read it wrong? I read it over, no, I read it correctly, she really typed goats. Did she have make a typo? She repeated herself, repeated the word “goat,” so I thought she probably meant it.
I asked her, “What?! What do you mean goats? Like actual, physical, living goats? Why?”
“Anxiety fighting goats.”
The idea of bringing in emotional support animals during exam season is not novel. There have been posts on my school’s page advertising time slots you can book to pet cats, dogs, and now, apparently, goats that the student union planned. It would be my first time back at school since our final day of classes several months ago, and I could not believe I was considering going there just to see a goat when I would not even go there to see my friends, telling them I would meet them anywhere but back at school.
There is something about having your dog jump on you when you open your front door, your cat curling up beside you when you are about to sleep, your rabbit jumping around trying to get your attention, or a goat hoping to get pet that brings out so much calm, peace, and love inside us as humans. There are some people who can be rude to everyone but the sweetest to an animal. As Doris Day once said, “I have never met an animal I did not like. I cannot say the same thing about people.”
Every once in a while we all like having some sort of contact with another living thing, another life, but do not want to deal with all the hangups and complications that we humans bring into our interactions. As I mentioned before, my stress levels rise when I am surrounded by other students in the library and I am constantly trying to avoid it. There can be a feeling of loneliness and isolation, however, when I try to study at home on my own away from others. It is an odd sort of in between with an animal that brings life into a room, no small talk or compromises unnecessary, just comfort and companionship.
Numerous studies back up the therapeutic practice of having animals visit patients to lower stress hormones, and increase the release of dopamine. I could get into the science of it, except that I do not completely understand it, but the fact is that having these furry, sweet, animal creatures around have considerable benefits on our emotions and state of mind. We are social creatures by nature, seeking other social creatures for support even if they cannot talk back to us, or precisely because they cannot talk about to us. “Animals are such agreeable friends,” wrote George Eliot, “they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” Sometimes we do not even need to be around the animal, just tag a friend in a cute photo of a dog in a costume, or send them a link to a video where a man hugs a lion and somewhere inside of us we feel better.
Animals, whether big or small, fluffy or not, allow us to feel and project simple, innocent love that we need once in a while just to get through a rough week. They ask for little in return except scratching them behind their ear or giving them a treat and for a moment they cuddle up beside us or lick our hand, making us laugh when the day may seem dreary. Dogs, for instance, are man’s best friend for a reason.