When leaving for college many students are thinking ahead to new friends, challenging classes, decorating a dorm room and getting away from the same old thing. The thought of having more freedom and independence than you have ever known can be intoxicating. No one will hassle you to walk the dog, pick up your clothes, do the dishes or clean the litter box. Saturdays you can sleep all day long and be as unproductive as you like.
Of course, once you get used to it, that may not be as great as it sounds! When you’ve been up all night studying and you desperately need a cup of coffee but find all the mugs dirty, you may end up drinking coffee out of a rinsed-out oatmeal container. Then you realize that no litter box also means no warm kitty to snuggle with for an afternoon nap! Missing pets can be really hard after the new of school wears off. After all there’s nothing quite like the unconditional love of a family pet.
We were chatting with a young woman who is studying to become an exotic animal veterinarian and really missed her cat and dog after a day of listening to lectures on animal science. She shared a few things that helped her out while coping with missing her furry friends. She wished she had thought of it before leaving for school.
“My dorm does allow small pets,” she told us. She had considered getting a mouse or some goldfish but her friends said that both could get fairly stinky in a hurry. She also had to be gone for lengthy hours volunteering at the local zoo as a part of her study program. Some students do find solace in the right small pet such as a gecko that is hardy and requires only a little care. For her the answer was a little bird feeder with a suction cup on the side. Fastened to the window from outside and kept filled with the right food for local wild birds brought regular visitors to be named and cherished but not kept forever. Unfortunately, not all dorms have windows that open so that isn’t an option for everyone.
Fortunately, there’s a new trend popping up on college campuses across the country, usually just in time for finals week, Pet Therapy. From the University of Mississippi to Macalester College in Minnesota, more and more pooches are around campus during final exams to help students reduce stress and relax in a healthy way. Since research has shown that when people interact with pets it decreases cortisol levels, the stress hormone, and increases endorphins, the feel good hormone, universities have begun making pets available to students on a limited basis.
Most schools, like Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia partner with organizations that train companion dogs so that the canines get their social training while students get stress relief. Harvard has faculty members bring their dogs to campus. Other schools work with the local humane society to bring pets to campus.
As for missing your own pet, a furry pillow or two on the bed is fun and comforting. Also, a cool clothesline frame is the perfect spot to hang pictures of the pets back home. With reminders of family, the occasional pet on campus and thoughts of the future to enjoy, it’s a little easier to think about how nice it is to skip the litter box one more day and still keep spirits up!