Dordt Dog Days

Rochelle vanderHelm- -Guest Writer

Sophomore Abigail Dalen felt lousy. But lucky for her, she had someone there to cheer her up. Sure, her mom was nice, her sister too, but one thing that really helped her to feel better was Bella. Bella serves as Abigail’s sister’s service dog, and both sister and canine companion came for a visit.

“We’ve had dogs since I was born,” Dalen said. She keeps a picture of her favorite dog, Buddy, as her phone lock screen. Since he passed last year, Dalen has had Bella to keep her company.

Dalen remembers how, after an unexpected surgery, Bella would jump up on her raised bed and just sit there for hours. She remembers how silly she looked using the ottoman as a ladder. In a stressful and unpredictable time, Bella proved to be a valuable comfort to Dalen.

Because Bella is a service dog, she is allowed in residence halls at Dordt. The college outlaws all other pets besides firsh, as long as the fish tank holds five gallons or less. It is not uncommon for colleges to have restrictions on pets in residence, for obvious reasons. (Just imagine all the work the cleaning ladies would have to do!) Despite this, winds may be turning for colleges.

Like Dalen, many Dordt students express a strong attachment to their pets, many mentioning their dog as the thing they miss the most about home. When asked about having pets in residence, Dordt students consistently voiced discomfort at the idea of having multitudes of pets in every dorm. Most, however, did mention that it would be nice to have one dog, cat, or whatever it be, for a group to share.

Elise Visscher, a prospective Dordt student and self-proclaimed dog-lover admits “actually making it work would be difficult,”  but that if pets were eventually allowed in residence, she would be “all for it.”

Stephens College is one institution that has embraced a pet-friendly policy, offering students the option of staying in a pet-friendly dorm where they may keep one out of a list of pets, as long as the animals meet specific requirements. Cat, dog, gerbil: they are all welcome. The President’s office even offers free treats for students to pick up for their pet.

Kristine Lund, a researcher for Ottawa University, describes a study done with the students of Wilfrid Laurier University in her book, Touch in the Helping Professions: “Participants indicated positive change in how they were feeling as a result of interacting with the puppies,” says Lund.

Dordt has welcomed two puppies such as Jett and Jada, the “Dordt Dogs.” Dordt students can stop by and say “hello” to these furry bundles of joy for a bit of cuddles.

Pets can be an enormous help in reducing stress and anxiety, and college students are some of the most stressed and anxious of all age groups. For some, like Dalen and her family, dogs help with the daily process of life. Dordt College has had its share of dogs on campus, with Jett and Jada, and various service dogs, but maybe there is room for more.

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