By now, you’ve probably read the headline and are seething. You want to punch me in the face. You want to ban me from the SPCA. You hate me and you don’t even know me. Fair.
So, let me preface this article with this:
I am in no way saying students who have pets are bad owners, and I am in no way saying I don’t like pets to begin with. I love animals. I love them from the deepest depths of my soul. I lost my dog Hunter, my best companion since fifth grade, in January 2015 and my heart and soul have not been the same since. Since, I’ve taken on my boyfriend’s pets and all of my friends’ pets as my own because I love them so much. Animals are the best therapy.
But that doesn’t mean I need one of my own.
I realized this when I moved out for the first time at the end of last summer. I was moving in with a couple and they had just gotten a black lab puppy the month before, which I knew when I agreed to live with them. I was fine with it. I love dogs, I said, especially black labs — that’s what my Hunter was — so it won’t be too bad.
The first day we moved in she barked all day long. We got a note on our door. She’s just a puppy, we convinced ourselves. It’ll get better once she settles in.
Flash forward about two and a half months: the black lab had grown bigger and, if it tells you anything about my living situation, she was my best companion in the apartment. She was boisterous, but she was lovable.
I was at a hockey game one Sunday when I got a text. It was a picture of a German shepherd puppy.
“Newest member of the family!!!!” it read.
What I said: “Oh my god, he is SO cute!!! Those ears!!!”
What I wanted to say: “Are you fucking kidding me?”
In a couple of day’s time, a little German shepherd puppy, barely seven weeks old, would move in.
Their reason for getting him? “He was only 100 dollars.” Nice.
So, after seven months of living with two puppies who were never really trained, waking up to barking and scratches on the door, late night crying through the walls about whether or not to get rid of them (the German shepherd did get shipped off after he ate anti-freeze in the parking lot and was “surprisingly different and unlike himself”) and walking on carpets embedded with — I don’t want to talk about it — I left.
I walked away with diminished sanity and a new perspective on why students should absolutely not get a pet.
Do you have a student loan? Do your parents have to e-transfer you grocery money every now and then? Are you wondering if you can afford rent this month? The vast majority of students are financially dependent or have to depend on a strict budget to get by. Averages show it costs at least $1,000 per year to take care of the average dog or cat. Unless goldfish are more your style, do your bank account a favour. More importantly, do the animal a favour. Vet bills can be scarily expensive. If you can’t afford to take care of your pet, you shouldn’t have one.
Pets need to be fed consistently. Pets need to be exercised a lot. Pets need to be played with every day. Pets need to be given attention 24/7. You can barely get out of bed for your 11:30 a.m. class. You have to study for five midterms. You’re gone all day between class, work and having a “study beer” at the The Cellar and forget to text your mom back. You do not need a pet whose life depends on you.
You can’t have a pet in a dorm room. Plain and simple. So, you’ll have to uproot yourself and move down the street if you want a furry friend to snuggle with. Still, believe me when I say apartments or even a student house in this city is no place for a pet. If your animals are cooped up in the house all day, only to be let outside on a leash with a few square inches of space to run around in, it’s not fair to anyone. Besides, in my former hell hole of an apartment, we had to pay $25 extra each month to have animals. Do you know how many things you can do with an extra 25 bucks every month? The possibilities are endless and probably not as stressful.
Animals are moral patients. Their lives depends on us. Between part-time jobs, full-time course loads, hitting deadlines and having to take care of an animal, how will you manage? My roommates never went to class because they felt like they couldn’t (and they were lazy and unmotivated, but that’s besides the point). But I also know a guy who had to get rid of his dog after a few months because he just couldn’t balance everything. Animal shelter populations spike during students’ busy times of the year. We have enough priorities as it is. Adding animals into the mix is unfair to you and that cute little fluffball.
Animals are amazing sources of therapy. They make everything in the world seem not so bad. But students do not have the time, resources or maturity to take in anything other than a drunk guy who needed to crash on their couch — and let’s be honest, when the morning rolls around, we don’t really know how to deal with that either.
Work hard now, get all your priorities in line and be as selfish as you need to be for a few more years. Then, you can fulfill your lifelong dream of being a cat lady or rescuing senior dogs from the SPCA. I’ll see you there.