I have never been without a dog. I truly mean that; even on the day my parents brought me home from the hospital, there was a dog in the house. Because I've always been around them, I really love dogs, and one of the hardest parts about going away to college was leaving my three dogs back home.
I live off campus, so getting my own dog was a possibility, but my dad basically forbade me from getting one when I first moved up to Orlando. This lasted all of two weeks. (Sorry, dad! You love Minnie now though.) I was miserable without a pet and he eventually caved.
This brought Minnie into my life, and I have no regrets. She has however taught me so much about responsibility, and I now understand some of my dad's initial concerns. While this turned out to be a great choice for me, it's certainly not for everyone. Here are some things to consider before you get a pet in college:
1. How much time do you have?
You probably know this, but I feel it's important to repeat a few million times: Pets, especially dogs, are a lot of work.
When you have a dog in particular, you have to be home regularly. They need a routine, and this includes regular feeding and walking times. Also, if you get a puppy, you have to factor in more walks as well as time for training, and trust me, training can take months. Minnie is still working on house training, and I've had her since September.
If you have a very busy schedule, a dog is probably not the right fit for you. It's not fair to leave a dog alone all day, no matter how old they are. For example, if I want to do a whole day in Disney, I have to make arrangements for my friend Kevin (Thanks!) to come pet sit for me. This same concept would apply to travel as well (more on this later). If this is a problem for you and you still really want a pet, I recommend looking into a more low-maintenance pet such as a cat or a rabbit, for example.
2. Can you afford it?
I'm lucky to have had the help of my parents to pay for Minnie's expenses. If it wasn't for them, I'd need a job in order to afford her, and if I did that, I wouldn't have nearly enough time to spend with her. (Since she's still a puppy, she requires even more time than most dogs.)
Many first time dog owners forget the extra expenses that come with dogs. Getting minnie spayed and microchipped was $300 at my vet. Add in shots each year and general pet supplies and food and it's at least $500 a year, and that doesn't include any other procedures or medications your dog might need. (Emergencies can happen as well, and pet insurance, though great, doesn't cover everything!)
Getting your dog from a shelter can help alleviate the initial costs because shelter pets are usually spayed and given shots prior to adoption, but don't forget that you have to keep up with their vaccines each year. In short, dogs - as well as most other pets - are a major financial undertaking.
3. Do you travel a lot?
When I ask this question, I'm mostly referring to how often you go home, but it also applies to actual travel as well. Firstly, if you travel often, a pet might not be for you, unless you're going to invest heavily in pet sitters. If you plan to travel with your pet, then it might be wise to get a small dog.
I love big dogs just as much as the next person, but when it came time to get my own, I went with a teacup sized dog. This basically means that Minnie is now fully grown at six pounds.
I chose to have a smaller dog because I drive home fairly often, and three hours with a big dog in Toyota Camry just wouldn't be comfortable for them or me. Also, if need be, Minnie could come on a plane and fit underneath the seat in her carrier. She also well within the size limits for most pet-friendly hotels.
My Overall Thoughts on Pets in College
Even though there are many things to consider when getting a dog, and the choice isn't for everyone, I do not regret getting Minnie. She's been a great addition to my life and there's nothing better than coming home to her every day (she's sitting on my lap right now). She's been a constant companion and I'm so happy to have her.
Ultimately, if you have room in your life, time-wise and financially, a pet can be a wonderful choice for a college student. Just make sure you don't take the decision lightly - fully research, plan for, and understand your choice before you even think about taking the plunge. You owe any potential pet that much.
Do any of you have pets? Do you think it's more responsibility than you initially thought? Any regrets? Let me know in the comments.