College Students and Pets
Posted on December 20 2020
When our youngest daughter was five years old, she asked us if she could get a dog. At the time, we were traveling a great deal with our oldest daughter who was playing in a select league for basketball. Getting a dog just did not seem feasible. We tried to satisfy her need for a dog by purchasing stuffed animals, robotic dogs and we even watched our neighbors' and friends’ dogs when they were on vacation…complimentary. However, nothing seemed to curb her enthusiasm for having a dog of her own.
One Christmas, while she was sitting on Santa’s lap, she asked him for a dog. “That’s all I want” she said. He looked at me and I did not know what to say. Finally, we caved in and started having conversations with her about getting a dog when her sister left for college. In October of 2006, she got her wish and we welcomed Chelsey into our home.
Not having a dog of my own growing up, I could not believe how much emotional support a dog could provide a family. We trained Chelsey to be a therapy dog. She worked at assistive living facilities, cancer care units and she participated in a program called “Reading with Rover” where kids would come to a common area and read a book to Chelsey. There are so many benefits to having a pet, but the biggest advantage is spending just a few minutes with a pet can lower anxiety and blood pressure.
This is huge for college students where according to the American College Health Association's 2018 National College Health Assessment, “87% of college students reported feeling tremendous stress at least once in the previous year”. When our youngest went away to college, it was a very difficult time for our family, that August our oldest daughter passed away from Ewing's Sarcoma Cancer. In addition, our youngest daughter was moving to another state so she had to say good-bye to us and her beloved dog "Chelsey". I would send her text photos of Chelsey as often as I could. I know several times she wanted to get a pet while attending college, but she never did.
Would I have allowed it? That's a difficult question given her situation. There are certainly articles listing the pros and cons to having a pet in college. On the other hand, the internet is full of opinion pieces advising college students not to get a pet.
Studies indicate that college students may deal with stress better it they have a pet. At Washington State University, through their Animal Visitation Program, they found that pets relieve academic stress and can lift a student's mood. Knowing that pets are a good thing to have on campus, what can college students do if they decide not to get a pet.
1) Encourage your family to bring your pet with them next time they visit.
When we first started flying with Chelsey back in 2006 some airlines actually had frequent flyer miles for dogs. Almost unheard of now, many airlines continue to accommodate our canine friends, but in different ways. For instance, emotional support animals can sit on your lap on the plane and if your pet is under 20 pounds, they can ride in a crate under the seat in front of you. Here are the best airline approved pet carriers for the cabin.
3) Study at a Dog Park
Bring Fido lists off leash dog parks in the United States. It's a great way to read a book, get outside especially during the lockdowns and interact with dogs. Don't be surprised if you get a lick or two!
4) Walk Dogs as a Side Business
Wag, a Los Angeles–based dog-walking startup, matches people with dog owners. In 2017, Wag cost $20 for a half hour walk and an hour walk cost $30. Much like Uber, Wag takes a percentage of the total cost. However, in reading some of the posts, a dog walker posted the following, "When I walk in San Jose, I easily make $150 a day preteax, pre-gas, driving 10-15 minutes between walks".
5) Volunteer at the Humane Society
Locate the closest Humane Society, complete an application and enjoy your canine companion! Here are some of the responsibilities as a volunteer:
- Walking dogs
- Socializing cats
- Showing pets to potential adopters
- Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning
- Photographing pets
- Office tasks such as printing or copying
6) Foster a Dog
When our shelters are over capacity, they often seek individuals who temporarily care for some of the animals. One of the biggest advantages of fostering is experiencing the joy of knowing you’ve saved the lives of multiple animals. You can even foster a service dog. Little Angel Service Dogs is located in California and New Hampshire. While Dogs for Better Lives serves the Seattle (Puget Sound) area, Oregon and Northern California.
7. Play with the Therapy Dogs on Campus
Some universities are letting students borrow dogs during stressful times of the year. Here are 8 universities that have invited dogs on campus to help reduce stress, particularly during finals. It's nice to see colleges recognize the importance of our canine friends on campus. Hopefully, we will see more of this in the years to come.
While having your own pet during college is something to consider, it does pose a challenging problem. What do you do when you need to be away from home for long periods of time? Budgeting for a pet is also an issue. There are food, travel expenses and visits to the veterinarian which all cost money. Hopefully, college students will be able to satisfy their need for a pet by implementing some of the ideas we have listed above.
So, now that our daughter is two years out of college and working full time (remotely and at the job site), what did she do? Meet Hamilton, her first post- college pet as an adult.
Happy holidays everyone!
Rebecca Hastings is the CEO/Founder of hugabox, college care packages with a purpose (90% of the proceeds go to childhood cancer research). She is a huge advocate for sarcoma cancer research funding and works with others across the country to make childhood cancer a national priority. When she is not working, she is off hiking, skiing and playing golf with her husband. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram @ hugabox.
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