Growing up I always had pets. Cats, dogs, goldfish, you name it. But besides scooping food and letting them outside, I really didn't have any clue about all the care and costs involved with having a pet. That is, until I decided to adopt a dog before starting my junior year at GVSU. I adopted Lula this past summer, and she has opened my eyes to the many challenges and rewards that accompany having a pet. While you may see tons of other college students walking their dogs or posting pictures with their cats, you should take the time to consider all that comes with your furry friend.
When I first brought my dog home I was suddenly overwhelmed. I had a new pet who was sick and skinny from the shelter who was now in an unfamiliar space, and my responsibility to care for.
Before adopting an animal the biggest thing you need to consider is expense. While you might be okay skipping your yearly physical or living off pop tarts for a semester, that isn't fair to an animal. You need to make sure you'll be able to afford proper nutritious pet food as well as treats. Also, think about being able to spend money on vet bills, grooming, toys, bedding, etc.
The second thing that you should think about is time. If your schedule is hectic and you sometimes find yourself crashing on friend's couches or pulling all-nighters in the library, then you can't have an animal at home relying on you. Animals, especially dogs, also need exercise and stimulation, all things to consider before adopting or buying a pet while you're focused on school. College is stressful, busy, and unpredictable and it's okay to realize that right now you need to be a little bit selfish. However if you have a friend, roommate, or partner willing to help you out and take on responsibilities you might be able to be a little more flexible.
Lula after her first bath in her new home. @shelbylynncassel
While of course taking on the challenge of having a pet is going to come with responsibilities, it also has major benefits. Having my dog has pushed me to really stick to routine this school year. I get up at 8:00 am each day hours before my first class because I know I need to let her outside. Feeding her breakfast in the mornings reminds me to stop and eat as well. She needs to go on walks so that means I am also getting exercise everyday. She's a priority to me, which has in turn allowed me to prioritize myself.
Another huge benefit has been the social interactions having a pet has created. College students miss their animals they had to leave at home, which means often we get visitors wanting to stop in and say hi. When we are out for walks, I'll often meet new people who want to pet Lula and then stop to chat. Not to mention all the cute pictures and funny videos I get to send about her to my friends.
Lastly, having a pet while being a college student has been the biggest emotional benefit ever. Everyday I come home to a dog who is so happy to see me. She trusts and loves me unconditionally. She's a positive presence in my apartment and my roommates enjoy her too! And while she isn't a very good guard dog, we all feel a little safer when we are home alone. If you think you can handle the costs and you're willing to sacrifice the time, then you should get a pet. I know I can't imagine this school year without mine.
Lula enjoying her first bowl of doggy ice cream.@shelbylyyncassel