Nicholls State University is welcoming students to its dorms for the new semester, and some are accompanied for the first time by pets.
Taylor LaFleur is moving into Calecas Hall with her dog, Moa. She named the 7-month-old Great Pyrenees and hound mix after a band she likes. Moa, she said, stands for Moment of Alwaysness.
LaFleur said she feels privileged to bring her dog along in her senior year, something she's wanted to do since she was a freshman on the Thibodaux campus.
She said she doesn't have the resources to get an emotional support animal or service dog, but Moa provides emotional support for her nonetheless.
"She helps me take my mind off of my other responsibilities while also helping me stay in line and reminding me someone loves me and is happy to see me no matter what," Lafleur said. "She truly helps keep me happy."
Alex Coad, Nicholls director of residential Living, said seven students signed up to bring their pets — mostly dogs along with a few cats — this semester.
Classes begin Monday, while students began moving into the dorms Thursday.
The pilot program, announced in April, is a first for any Louisiana public university.
The Pet-Friendly Living Learning Community was originally planned for Babington Hall, but while that dorm gets set up with pet-friendly accommodations, Calecas will be used instead, Coad said.
Calecas was chosen because 10 rooms' back porches face a green area enclosed by a fence, making it perfect for pets. Each suite in Calecas is set up for four students: two per bedroom. Two bedrooms are connected in a U-shape pattern by a bathroom. The suites designated for pet owners will have one per bedroom to keep the pets separated.
"We wanted to provide an opportunity for students to live with their animals when they may not have a specific need for an emotional support or service animal," Coad said. "The program will focus on developing the student and animals and bringing students who love animals together into a community."
Calecas Hall, a one-story building attached to the Nicholls State Police station, houses roughly 80 residents.
Only returning sophomores, juniors and seniors are eligible to bring pets for now, and rooms are assigned first-come, first-served. Each pet owner will need to provide vet and vaccination records.
Back in April, Vice President for Student Affairs Michele Caruso said research shows many owners believe their pets have helped them get through difficult times and were less likely to feel lonely or depressed.
“Research clearly shows that many students can benefit both psychologically and socially from living with an animal companion,” Caruso said. “We wanted to create this community as a way to both enhance the quality of life for our students and also challenge them to grow in personal and social accountability.”
This article originally appeared on Daily Comet: Nicholls State University welcomes its first furry dorm residents