“I didn’t really plan on getting a dog, but now I can’t imagine that I wanted to live by myself without a dog,” Hyder said.
But dogs like Ellie aren’t just cute pets to come home to, play with or cuddle with.
They can also provide protection for the mind, body and soul.
“She is a big stress reliever. She’s just so happy, and to her, you’re the most important thing in their world, so it’s always nice to come home and cuddle whenever I’ve had a bad day,” Hyder said.
Dr. Allen O’Barr, the director of Counseling and Psychological Services at UNC, said dogs can also benefit students’ well-being.
“If a person feels comfortable with a companion animal of any type, then that animal can prove a great deal of support to that student during times of loneliness or homesickness or anxiety,” O’Barr said.
For some people, dogs and other animals are more than just cute friends — they have an active role in supporting a healthy lifestyle.
“There are some people who are greatly comforted by the companion of an animal, whether it’s a dog or cat or ferret or mouse or whatever,” O’Barr said.
“For some people who suffer from psychological conditions, that can be the thing that stabilizes them when they otherwise don’t feel stable.”
Even for students who don’t get to go home and snuggle up with a dog, just seeing one on campus can put a smile on their faces.
When Hyder walks Ellie through campus, she is greeted by lots of students eager to get some puppy love.
“I had someone stop their car in the middle of the street and get out to pet her and then get back in the car and go,” she said.
First-year Mary Beth Browne said although she considers herself a cat person, she loves seeing dogs on campus.
“Anything with that much energy and fur always brightens my day,” she said. “When I see a dog — even if I don’t get to pet the dog — just seeing something that is cute brings happiness to my heart because it reminds me of home.”