She is seen smiling at every passing face.
People walk by and greet her with an elated “Hello!” and ask her how her day is going.
Wrapped around her neck is a black and red bow choker.
Her name? Sasha. And she is one of the happiest dogs on PLNU’s campus.
Sasha’s owner, Kindred Boeve, is a junior education major studying at the university and gets to have her furry friend as a dorm room companion. Boeve loves having her pup live with her because Sasha can boost Boeve’s mood whenever she needs it.
“She’s just pure happiness,” said Boeve. “How could you not smile when you’re with her?”
Sasha is Boeve’s Emotional Support Dog (ESD). At Point Loma, the Disability Resource Center helped Boeve get Sasha into the dorms and allowed the dog to live with her owner for the year. Boeve had to submit medical documentation in order to get her ESD approved by the school, according to Nichole Hope-Moore, Student Success and Wellness Director, Tutorial & Disability Services.
Sasha helps Boeve to deal with her bipolar disorder, which causes severe depression and suicidal thoughts contrasted with days where she feels great and happy. This disorder was provoked by Boeve’s loss of her mother.
“If I’m really bawling, she will start crying too,” said Boeve.
Carole Davis, one of the founders of Paws’itive Teams: Service and Therapy Dogs, a non-profit organization in San Diego, explained how ESD are able to help someone’s mental health improve.
“As far as the mental health benefits of an ESD, a dog that is calm and tuned in to the handler can be beneficial in many ways,” said Davis in an email interview. “Also, taking care of the dog’s needs gives a person meaning as a caregiver and this can be very healing. However, the dog should never be used to replace other therapy treatments.”
Sasha helps keep Boeve on track with doing the little things which help her stay away from the depressed state that she can easily slide into due to her bipolar disorder.
“When I’m in that state, I don’t want to get up, I don’t want to eat, I don’t want to do anything,” said Boeve. “And, like, with her, it’s basically like a physical reminder that okay I do have to get out of bed because I have to take her outside to go to the bathroom. I have to take her on walks every day. She needs exercise and I get exercise too. She eats, and I have to eat.”
Another way that Boeve has found help is through her roommate Elina Mendoza, a junior political science major at PLNU. They have known each other since freshman year. Mendoza, a fellow dog lover, helps out Boeve by taking Sasha out for walks and playing with her.
Mendoza feels as if Sasha is helping her in addition to helping Kindred by being there when she comes back to the room, being her dog away from home, and helping her through some rough times.
About a week ago, Mendoza received news of the death of a family member and was crying on the top bunk in her room. She heard a noise coming from under her and when she looked down, Sasha was crying, too.
“I felt the need to go console her because I felt like she was freaking out a little bit,” said Mendoza. “So, I crawled down from the top bunk and we just sat together. And she just sat on my lap. I mean it’s just very nice how consoling she can be.”
Sasha doesn’t just touch the hearts of Mendoza and Boeve, but she has spread her love to other podmates as well. One of those podmates is Nicole Tanaka, a senior psychology major.
Tanaka deals with anxiety and has had instances where Sasha will jump up onto the bed with Tanaka and lie there while she’s doing homework. Tanaka feels that Sasha can understand how she’s feeling just by her tone of voice.
“Her presence and happiness can flip my mood so easily,” said Tanaka.
Though Sasha is half pitbull, she ignores the stigma placed on her for being vicious and aggressive and instead embraces the role as Boeve’s ESD. Her sweetness and tenderness can be seen in the way she curls up into her owner’s lap when Boeve is crying and cries with her, or in the way she crawls up onto Tanaka’s bed and lies with her when she is feeling overwhelmed by homework and by school.
Sasha is a friendly face to go along with a friendly owner. Though they face their challenges of depression, bipolar disorder, and stigmas, they face the world with smiles on their faces.
“It’s just little reminders to keep going,” said Boeve.