If you have a relative who owns an emotional support animal (ESA), you most likely know how important that animal is to your loved one. ESAs can help with a variety of mental illnesses (everything from depression and anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder). They can provide support and comfort to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with these conditions. You also probably understand how crucial it is for your relative to have their ESA by their side at all times. So, if you’re going to be spending the Christmas holidays with an emotional support animal owner, you’ll want to make sure you can make them feel as comfortable as possible. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about how to help an ESA owner feel welcome in your home during the holidays.
Why ESAs are so important to their owners
ESAs are vital to their owners during the holidays because the season can be stressful (especially for people who are already dealing with symptoms from a mental illness). Whether your relative is battling anxiety over traveling or social get-togethers, or struggling with sadness and loneliness, their ESA can help them manage their feelings and handle the many stressors that can accompany this time of year.
How to host an emotional support animal owner during the holidays
There are plenty of things you can do to make an ESA owner feel comfortable if they’ll be staying with you this Christmas.
Ask ahead of time if they’ll be bringing their ESA to your home
If you’ll be hosting an ESA owner, it’s helpful to find out ahead of time if they plan on bringing their ESA with them for Christmas. Being able to plan ahead for their whole visit can be really valuable (and can help save you time and extra effort in the long run).
Offer to pick them up at the airport or station
Offering to pick up your loved one when they arrive in town can be helpful so they don’t feel overwhelmed when they arrive. You can also help them carry their bags, since they might have their hands full with their ESA and a crate, dog bed, etc. Picking them up and providing transportation can take some anxiety out of traveling for them.
Make a list of local vets, dog parks, groomers, pet stores, etc.
If your loved one is coming from out of town, it’s likely they won’t be familiar with your city. That’s why it can be really helpful to give them a list of all the amenities they might need while staying with you. Coming up with a list of local pet stores and vets will remind them that they can get supplies and/or medical treatment for their ESA if needed. Plus, throwing in fun options like dog parks or outdoor eateries where pets are welcome will make your relative feel even more supported.
Check if all your house guests are comfortable staying with an ESA/if they have any allergies
If you’re going to have a house full of people for the holidays, you’ll want to make sure every single person is comfortable with the accommodations. So, check with each guest to ensure they’re okay with the type of ESA that will be staying in the home. If they’re afraid of dogs, reptiles, etc., then they’ll still have time to make other arrangements if they need to. You should also verify that none of your guests will be allergic to the ESA.
Ask how much the ESA will want to interact with others
It’s always a good idea to ask your relative ahead of time what their ESA will be comfortable with. You can ask things like if they’re good with children, other animals, new people, etc. so you can ensure the ESA will also feel safe in this new environment. Taking this step to prepare can be helpful so that everyone coming for the holidays will feel safe with the ESA and vice versa.
Check your house for anything that could be dangerous to pets
Before your relative and their ESA arrive, do a thorough check of your home (including your backyard) to see if there is anything that could be potentially dangerous to a pet. Put away any breakables, anything edible, or nice rugs that you wouldn’t want to get damaged by a pet. Make sure the backyard is safe and secure so there’s no chance the ESA could get loose while they’re staying with you.
Offer to get specific food, treats, or bedding for the ESA
Your loved one will feel extra taken care of if you stock up on special treats or a new dog bed for their ESA. Taking steps to make the ESA truly happy will show your loved one that you’re dedicated to providing them with a safe environment while they’re staying with you.
Create a safe space for the ESA
A safe place can be a pile of blankets, a special bed, or just a separate room with the animal’s crate and toys. This place will give the ESA space to rest and take a break from the holiday festivities so that they’re able to still support their owner. Even if you don’t have a lot of room in your home, there’s always a way for you to create a special place for the ESA to hang out.
Be respectful of your loved one’s need to spend time with their ESA
Spending Christmas with an ESA owner means that you need to be conscious of how they’re doing during the entire trip. Always remain aware that your loved one might need to have their ESA with them at all times in order to feel safe or to take breaks where their only company is their ESA. Keep your home a no-judgment zone, and everyone will feel respected and happy.
Give a big welcome to your relatives with ESAs that are staying with you this holiday season, and you’ll be all set to celebrate the festivities together!