No matter how wildly liberating or exhilarating the college experience is, for those of us who moved straight from home to campus, there is always a thing or two that is missed dearly. For some it’s the coziness of their old room, or maybe a home-cooked meal that the UDCC can’t quite replicate. For numerous others (including myself) it’s our pets; whether they are cats, dogs or an Eastern Box Turtle, these family animals are the biggest loss when moving away from home.
In the good old days, there might’ve been an occasion when you get a pretty bad test score on the same day that your parents get into a fight and your older sister is suffering through her third break-up that month. When you go home, everyone is sullen and nobody particularly wants to talk to you. But a wagging, smiling family dog doesn’t know these things and probably wouldn’t care even if he did.
Now, the stakes are higher when you bomb a test, and the break-ups are often more devastating. Unfortunately, your loyal furry friends can’t help you out from 300 miles away. For me, one of the biggest steps in adjusting to campus life was learning to live without the unflagging companionship of a dog. From what I’ve heard, similar lamentations echo from dozens of other students who had to leave their Fido at home.
Along with the freedom and fun of college come some of the biggest responsibilities and challenges of our lives. Both the stress and melancholy that occasionally accompany college life can be partially resolved by owning a pet. That good feeling that you get from scratching a dog behind the ears or taking him for a long walk can be explained by the fact that taking care of animal creates both oxytocin and dopamine, according to Examiner.com. Similar to forming friendships, building relationships or taking care of a child, owning a pet releases “happy” chemicals.
Though college students might be among those that most require the comfort of a pet, we are also among those least capable of owning one. Obviously for dorm residents, pets are not an option. Unless you count fish (which, while amusing, are hardly a source of comfort), dorms are sadly lacking in animal companionship. Even after the obligatory year or two living on campus, it can be extremely difficult to find a pet-friendly residence.
When looking for an apartment that allows pets, you’ll run into a few difficulties, but the main one is cost. Most “pet-friendly” apartments charge exorbitant fees for the housing of a cat or dog. A place I’ve looked into specifically asked for a $200 pet security deposit, in addition to a $50-per-month pet fee. These might be reasonable prices for an individual comfortably established in the work force, but not for a college student.
With expenses like these on top of vet bills, food and other things, having a pet in college may just be out of the question. However, there are a few options for the determined outside of working three jobs.
If you find yourself with like-minded roommates, see if any or all of them would be willing to split the expenses of a dog so you can all enjoy the undying loyalty and companionship of a pet. The main problem with this is that eventually, you may not be roommates and then someone will have to take (and pay for) your four-legged friend.
Another option that is financially easier but emotionally much more difficult is to foster a dog. Organizations like Heartland Greyhound Adoption have more dogs than they have homes for; fosters provide a temporary home for the dog while a permanent location is found. In many cases, greyhound fosters are helped with expenses such as vet bills and food; with apartment pet fees, you’re still on your own. The main challenge comes on the day when a home is found, and you have to give up a beloved friend.
In most cases, the financial and emotional strain of these few options is too much. In these cases, the only remaining option is to live through your poor college years and get your feline or canine companion as soon as you are fiscally secure. However, if a path to pet ownership presents itself, take it! Even when weighed against the expense and responsibility, the comfort and love from our speechless, hairy friends are truly inestimable.
Hailey Gross is a sophomore in English from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.