One of Amber Tingle’s roommates can be quite a handful. The orange-haired Jamie is notorious for playing with the blinds in the morning and waking her up. Tingle has to feed him and give him water every day. Sometimes when she tries to study, Jamie would rather play and brings her his favorite toys. Jamie also is a cat. I probably should have said that first.

Before you try to bring your pet to school, understand that Jamie is here for a reason.  While Jamie is entertaining and very cute, those qualities alone don’t make him qualified to become a Bellarmine Knight. Jamie is a therapy animal. Unlike service animals Jamie is not trained to do something to help Tingle. Just having Jamie in her room with her is enough to help her.

This policy was implemented in order to be in compliance with the Fair Housing Act. To qualify for this program, the person must have a documented disability that makes living on campus nearly impossible.  “Not having that animal would mean that that student may not be able to stay in college” says Ronda Purdy, Director of Disability Services. “We all have times where we feel stressed out or anxious, but not all of us get to the point where it is a disability. I think that is the piece that every school needs to be thoughtful in determining. Although it’s a really great thing, there has to be a gateway because we can’t have everybody bringing an animal here. It could create problems.”

Last year, Tingle had a very hard time as a freshman. “I was really struggling,” says Amber.She had extreme anxiety and panic attacks, which caused her performance in school to decline. Unsure what to do to cope, she found her solution when reading about the animal therapy program in The Concord last year. Since she had been surrounded by animals her whole life, she felt having a therapy animal would be extremely beneficial in helping her anxiety.

To be allowed to have a therapy animal, Tingle had to submit information to disability services. In order to make Jamie an official Knight, Tingle had to get official documentation from her therapist that she has anxiety. Then her therapist had to write a letter stating how the animal would help Tingle and how the need for the animal would help her enjoy living on campus.

Additionally, Tingle had to provide information proving that Jamie was up to date on his shots and was in compliance with all Kentucky and Louisville Metro area license requirements. After that, Tingle had to wait to hear whether or not she had approval from Purdy and director of housing and residence life, Leslie Maxie-Ashford, in consultation with the disability advisory committee. Once approved, Tingle and Jamie were free to move into the dorms when her human roommate gave her seal of approval.

Amber is not the only person benefitting from Jamie’s presence. During our interview, another student on the floor, Katie Lance, came by to say hello to Jamie. Katie is a transfer student from St. Catherine’s College and says that Jamie has helped her with the transition.

“Knowing that we have a therapy animal on our floor has actually been a big help for me,” Lance said. “Having an animal on campus I can spend time with has been very soothing for me. Jamie has helped me adapt to the new changes and stay calm.”

Lance and Tingle also said that Jamie was a good ice breaker for them meeting and becoming friends.

“In the first floor meeting, our RA said ‘Why don’t you bring [Jamie] out?’ So I brought him out and said ‘His name is Jamie and he is named after a character in Outlander,’” Tingle said.

Lance, who likes Outlander as well, was able to make a connection with Tingle through this common interest.

“We became really good friends because of Jamie,” Lance said.

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