Pining for Pluto

Sep 072003
Authors: Natalie Plowman

The extra stress some students feel when entering college may not be just school-related; it could also be the lack of unconditional love that a pet provides.

It has been proven that pets affect humans’ mental health and can “reduce stress-induced symptoms” according to the Holistic-online Web site.

Some students had to leave pets behind that had been a large part of their lives and are starting to feel the void.

Freshman Katie Micheals, a geology major, left cats, a dog and horses back home and began to miss them when she arrived at school.

“I felt kind of lonely,” she said. “I got sent pictures of some of them. I think it’s part of your comfort zone, and they’re not here.”

Pets have been shown to “boost people’s moods,” according to the pet therapy section of Holistic-online.

Students who have suffered from depression, anxiety or general stress-related problems know that having a pet can help with some problems just by being there to stroke on the head or talk to.

“Pet owners demonstrate less increase in blood pressure in response to mental stress than do non-pet owners,” according to the Web site

The effects that pets have on humans are not purely psychological; even physical changes such as a decrease in hypertension and an increased life span have been noted and studied in pet owners versus non-pet owners.

Human-Animal Bond in Colorado has a research department on campus that studies the effect pets can have on humans.

Ben Granger, co-director of HABIC and professor emeritus of the School of Social Work, said adjusting to the absence of a pet or pets in students’ lives can be a “challenge, especially if a student has grown up with an animal.”

He believes a university pet visitation program could help students cope with missing a pet.

“Find someone who has a dog,” said Georgia Granger, co-director of HABIC. “We have over 100 dogs in our organization, something should be able to work out for kids who are missing their animals.”

Sophomore open option major Jazmin Gonzalez said she misses her German Shepherd and Rottweiler back home

“I would come home from school, they would just start jumping all over me, and now I don’t have that,” she said. “I would go with my pet and just talk to it. I do miss that, I needed that.”

Other students on campus can relate to missing that source of unconditional love.

“I don’t like sleeping by myself, it’s so quiet now,” said freshman Katie Miller, a psychology major who has a pug back home. “You’re just looking for comfort and they’re always there to provide that for you.”

Some students may decide to adopt a pet to help their loneliness and then later on cannot take the pet to a new apartment with them or have to move and drop the pet back off at the shelter.

“We do see them brought back to us and it’s kind of frustrating because of the negative effect on the animal,” said Cary Rentola, manager of community relations at the Humane Society of Larimer County. “We would rather see them come in and volunteer.”

For those who are interested in volunteering the Web site for the shelter is and the phone number is 226-3647.

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