If you are on the fence about whether or not to pursue pet adoption while still in the midst of obtaining your undergraduate degree, pause and pay attention. There are many positive and negative aspects attached to becoming a cat mommy or a doggy dad. But it’s easy to fall prey to the allure of all that positivity while forgetting to consider the enormity of the responsibility you just signed onto.
Many come to college with previous experience in animal caretaking. However, there are typically other household inhabitants who shared in accountability for a family pet while living at home. Particularly in the case of dogs, our parents often bore the bulk of the burden. Mom and dad did the 6AM tinkle time walks while we were asleep or up getting ready for school, then the 6PM post-dinner-poo walks while we were still at sports practice…or play rehearsal, or the library, or a friend’s house. Our parents fronted the bills both big (like when Pup got a steak bone lodged in his throat, then was rushed to the veterinary emergency room for an X-ray/removal) and small (monthly food, medicine, toys, beds, grooming, and accessories). Back then we got the fun part, the elements of canine-care that make it feel easy; we played with Pup when we were around and cuddled him when we craved affection, with some walking and feeding in between.
Our parents naturally and instinctively go out of their way to take superb care of puppy Pup because they remind them of us–their children. Dogs become new members of families and nothing less, or they wouldn’t call it adoption. Having experience with raising you and your siblings while secure with steady income, mom and dad make excellent candidates for pooch parents. Baby animals are as needy as baby humans; ask yourself: do you currently have the time, energy, and resources to care for a baby human? If no, then you probably don’t have enough of what it takes to adequately and appropriately care for a baby dog either.
This is more the rule than the exception to it. The majority of us undergraduate students are simply too inexperienced, inherently selfish, and busy to not inadvertently neglect significant responsibilities pertaining to proper pet care. We need to do things like pull all-nighters in Olin Library then disappear on spur-of-the -moment weekend getaways from the stress of our five-class course loads. When you arrive home from a bloodshot thirteen hours at Olin to find Pup peed on the rug, your impulse is to be livid with the tiny-bladder animal – yet that is technically your fault. When you’ve packed your getaway suitcase only to find out that no one is able to babysit Pup for the weekend and the boarding fee will cost you half a grand, again you will be mad at the animal. And again, this is not the animal’s fault.
But you might be thinking, well I have an idea as to how to avoid becoming a neglectful puppy parent. Sadly, these notions are easy to dispel. Sharing a pet: parents of children disagree all of the time on how to raise their child. The same will happen when training a baby dog. The question, then, is whether or not your relationship/friendship/roommate dynamic is strong enough to withstand the tension that will be caused by these mild disagreements. If it can’t, then be prepared for a nasty custody battle and possible heartache should you turn out to be the loser.
Never traveling: limiting yourself in this way, while being devoted to your dog, will result in a serious disservice to yourself long term. We are at an exciting age where we are not tied down by a serious job and we have that ability to disappear on a whim. Beyond that, do you genuinely want to spend every fall break, Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukah, New Years, long weekend, spring break, and summer from now until the time that you graduate in Winter Park?
Making the dog a priority: while this is exactly what any good pet owner in fact should do, unfortunately we are not in the position to really be doing that when we already have a top priority – school. When balancing dog care with a full course load on top of any extra curricular activities you are involved with, sacrifices will have to be made. Whether it’s your GPA or new pet that suffers, someone will pay the price from too few hours being in each day.
While dog adoption is a beautiful and fulfilling process, it may be one that has to wait until we’ve earned our degrees. Ultimately, these decisions need to be made on a situational basis. Some of us have these holes in our schedules or convenient living situations that allow us to become pet parents while others are better off waiting until undergrad is over. Animals always deserve our best.
The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of The Sandspur, its staff or Rollins College.