by Gabriella Cummings
photography by Litsy Tellez
From the beginning of time, a person’s best friend has been a dog. But my best friend is my cat. And “Peter” is more than that. There is a medical term for these types of best friends: ESA or emotional support animals. I adopted Peter Fall Semester 2019, my freshman year of college when I was going through many mental barriers within myself. From the moment I took him home (I left campus during the COVID-19 closure), he was by my side, clearly a best friend. He has helped me get through some of the hardest times in my life. When the campus opened again, and I moved back on campus, I knew that I needed to have him with me. So, Peter was now on a job hunt!
In order for ULV students to have ESAs in campus housing, there is an impossibly long bureaucratic checklist you have to follow through that can cause you more stress. It is a daunting list, meant to stop students from bringing ESAs to campus. During the summer, before my campus return, I was forced to collect medical notes, support documents and vouchers of need on University constructed questionnaires. I was forced to make an appointment with a psychiatrist, a therapist and a medical doctor to vouch that Peter could be designated as an ESA animal, who could then live on campus. And even though ULV has its own health center and counseling and psychological services, I was not allowed to use them to endorse my documentation. When classes started, I was very stressed from the ordeal. But I persevered, and it was totally worth it in the end. Since I dutifully went through all ULV’s roadblocks, I probably surprised them with my tenacity. I felt like a pioneer who was opening the path for others to follow. I knew that if I somehow got Peter officially registered as an ESA animal, it would be much easier for those who came after me.
My driving motivation was really striving to be a pioneer. As much as I was surrounded by friends who loved me, I felt so alone. I needed Peter. Now, when I open my Vista La Verne Residence Hall room, I am greeted by a tabby four-legged friend who has no worries in the world, and who generously takes all of my worries away the moment he opens his mouth and meows.
But my ordeal was not over. Even with the signed documentation and the reluctant go ahead from ULV Housing officials, I was still subject to discrimination because of Peter. When preparing for my senior year at La Verne, I thought housing would be the least of my worries. But I was wrong. Throughout the whole summer, I was asking repeatedly for the housing department to reach out to my roommates to let them know that an ESA cat would be in the suite. The response that I received was, “Just have a conversation with them when you move in.” Finally, after more than a month of trying to get housing officials to listen to me, they finally budged in July. They sent an email to all of my roommates, letting them know that there would be a cat in the suite, and that if there were any problems with that to reach back out. Sure enough, one of the girls in the suite said she was allergic to cats and refused to move out. Housing officials said that I would have to be the one removed. I was dumbfounded. After more than a month of them not helping me at all with this, I was the one receiving the short end of the stick. I was supposed to be moving in the following week into my room, but at this point I was kicked out of my planned suite and didn’t know where I was going. Then, just a few days before the move in date, I was placed in a new suite, and I was able to move in. The suite that I was placed in was with a group of women who have loved and taken care of Peter when I am away. Since then, it has not only been the four of us girls; but really it’s been the five of us because of Peter.
Peter gives me support when he senses I have been working for too long without a break by plopping himself right in front of my computer to the point I can’t see the screen anymore and have to take that long-awaited break. When my emotions are down, and I am feeling drained, he notifies me that it’s time to pick him up so he can rest his head on my shoulder and purr until he falls asleep. This centers my emotions and brings me back to a calm state. Not only does he offer me support, but anyone who walks into the suite is greeted with rubbing. Pick him up, and he cuddles. Many of my friends have gotten to the point where they just text me and ask whether they can see Peter because they need emotional support. Peter is more than just my support—he is now everyone’s support.
Although problems remain with housing that need to be addressed and fixed for those who follow me, for me, my resident assistant and many other RAs are doing an excellent job. They have supported and helped me with Peter after I moved in. They have checked up on him and accepted him. For that I am very grateful. For now, I am settled in. And so is Peter. ESAs are more than just pets and deserve to be accommodated. But for now, I am settled in. And so is Peter.
Unfortunately, on Jan. 15, 2023, Peter passed away. His death came very sudden. He was my world and my best friend. When I was in pain, he took it away. My heart aches without him, but I will never forget him. He touched many people’s lives, and I know he is looking down on all of us. Peter: “Your work is done. ‘Petey,’ you can rest now, I love you forever. With much love, Gabby.”
Resources for Your Fur Friends
With adopting a pet, there is so much more to know for their care. A surprise moment comes when the owner receives mail, saying, “It’s your pet’s time to get updated.” Vaccines! Not only is it time consuming to take your pet to get updated, but it can also be very expensive. These fees surprise owners and could lead to animals not being vaccinated because of the cost. In reality, the love we have for our fur friends means that we will do anything for them to protect them. This can get very pricey and can add stress for the owner. These options allow pet owners to vaccinate, microchip and make sure their pets are safe. Following are local animal shelters, pet stores and vets who offer responsibly priced shots.
Petco in San Dimas
Not only can you adopt animals at this location, but you can also get low cost vaccinations for your cats and dogs. Their prices for each inoculation range from $25 through $55. They offer a very wide range of vaccinations for lyme disease, rabies, canine influenza, parvo, and so much more. Packages are available at reduced costs if you need to get multiple vaccinations for your animals. This location unfortunately does not offer spaying or neutering.
La Verne Animal Hospital
This animal hospital is in the heart of Old Town La Verne and offers vaccines, microchipping, emergency care, spay, neutering, and more. The moment you walk in, you are greeted by very kind staff who are always willing to help you and your little fur friend. Appointments are encouraged for more non-emergency things.
Inland Valley Humane Society
Located in south Pomona, the Inland Valley Humane Society serves the community. It offers vaccinations for cats and dogs that include deworming, microchipping, rabies and more. Their vaccination prices range from $15 through $75. They also offer low cost vaccines and microchipping clinics on the weekends for low income individuals. The Humane Society is a great option for people looking for low cost services for their animals. o