One Perk of Remote Learning: Pets in Class


Now that everyone’s learning from home, it’s becoming common for students’ Zoom screens to occasionally feature a furry friend.

In late November, most Williston boarders traveled back home for Winter and are getting to spend more time with their pets.

Mac Kongsomjit, a senior who lives in Thailand, has formed a closer bond with his golden retriever, Cookie.

“I didn’t spend a lot of time with Cookie since I was at Williston for most of the year,” he said. “I thought we should give her away to a family that could give her more attention. But, now that I’ve spent more time with her, I think we should definitely keep her. I’m going to miss her once I go back in January.”

Megan Alvarado, a junior day student, has a dog that loves spending time with her, even during online classes.

“Because the classes are online, I get to spend more time with him which makes me happier, but sometimes he annoys me in class because he won’t leave me alone,” she said. “We also brought our pets to virtual advisory, which was really fun. We wouldn’t be able to do that in-person.”

Since many members of the Williston community love animals, Joshua Seamon, a calculus teacher, often lets people play with Buffy and Sadako, his two golden retrievers.

“I think having my girls [Buffy and Sadako] be on campus is a part of being a community member here,” he said. “Trying to put as much good out into the universe is super important to me, and Buffy and Sadako can make people happy really quickly, so it really is a positive for our community. It also helps Buffy and Sadako. They love meeting people, so it’s a win for everybody.”

Like Seamon, Mac feels increased access to pets at Williston will have positive effects on many students.

“On the ISS [International Space Station], they have robotic pets whose purpose is to raise morale,” he said. “Ideally, students should be able to have their own pets, but that’s unrealistic. My idea is for Health and Wellness to have a dog that people could sign up to play with. Kids are staying up until 4:00 a.m. doing a math assignment worth less than three points, so many of us are mentally dead. This would help with some of the stress.”

While Seamon sees the positive benefit of having a therapy dog at Williston, he emphasizes the importance of being cautious when implementing the program.

“I think that’s definitely something that should be explored, but I think there’s some very specific considerations to be very mindful of,” he said.  “Not everybody likes dogs, people are allergic to dogs. But if it’s done right, it could work very well. I think there would be a big benefit.”

Tee Tesharojanasup, a senior who has two cats at his home in Thailand, agrees with Mac’s plan.

“I support the plan to have a pet at Health and Wellness because pets are so soothing,” he said.

“When I’m stressed out, hanging out with cats and dogs really helps,” Tee added. “I miss my having them sleep on my lap while I play videogames. This plan would definitely have a positive impact on students.”