It’s a Dog’s Life

While I’m glad I have the time before school starts to come down to my apartment and figure my life out a little bit, there’s another huge reason why I moved in a few weeks early, and her name is Olive.

As we met last week, Olive is my new fur baby. She is quite a good girl, and I’m not just saying that because she’s mine. She goes outside for her business with (general) limited accidents, she’s especially a great cuddler once she’s tired out. She catches onto things quite quickly.

But with having a puppy, a responsibility that alone I haven’t had on my shoulders, you need that time for adjustment to figure out your surroundings and a routine. You need to get used to places like the kennel and the grass in a new place before jumping head-first into a full-blown busy schedule.

I completely understand people’s concerns or questions regarding having a pet in college. You have classes, a social life, other activities…throwing a dog in the mix? How do you manage all of that and do them all well?

If you’re willing to put in the effort and resourcefulness required to do so, the payoff is well worth it. It certainly helps having a companion who is flexible and well-behaved, but in most any situation, you can make it work.

I’m not calling myself an expert by any means. It’s a work in progress that I’m learning about every day. Olive and I are learning about each other, too. As a puppy, inevitably she will be more energetic and curious than an older dog, so at times I’ve felt like a stereotypical helicopter mom trying to make sure of her whereabouts at all times.

I also think there’s an added pressure in having another living being who depends on you. I’m sure the same would go for having children, too. But you feel like you always need to do the right thing, and you worry about making a mistake or aren’t doing your best. That disciplining a puppy or putting her in a kennel to go to bed at night will forever change our relationship.

It’s a dog. Yes, I realize I’m getting a little worked up about how she feels about me. It’s not like she’s in a family and has multiple people to go to. It’s just me. And “me” is a student finishing her senior year of college.

Being a student, if you don’t already, should be seen as a full-time job. Your well-being in between classes and essays is also important. You cannot use a dog as an excuse to avoid socializing with others or as an only reason why you fall short on a test or miss an event for a club or activity. It’s still on you.

For that, I applaud parents. It’s not an easy job. From a child’s perspective, it can be too easy to start nitpicking at certain things a parent might do or say, but at the end of the day, if they have the best of intentions, that’s all you can ask for. They’re just doing their best. They’re human. We’re allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. There are many moments available to make a different decision or act differently in the future.

The same applies to a dog. All I can do is provide her with what she needs to lead a healthy, long life. I do the basic feeding and potty times. I scold her when she needs to hear it. And I reward her and show my deepest affection in between. We learn from each other and make each others’ lives better.

I’ve talked previously about how beneficial pets are to our health and the crucial support they can provide as emotional support animals. That’s a huge reason why Olive is here. She is now a staple in my life. She makes me more patient, more grounded in the moment, more at calm when she’s in my arms. She forces me outside of my comfort zone of my own head’s schedule and “what’s right” by improvising when I need to, talking to people I might not have, being not just a single person going about life, but a person plus one.

If you think that college isn’t the right time for taking care of a dog, that it’s silly to add that kind of commitment on your plate, then when IS the right time? Life isn’t slowing down anytime soon. We just become busier. We transition through different phases. We start new projects and close others. We jump on different opportunities and make new memories with new friends. If not now, when?

It has just been over a week with Olive and a few odd days with just her and I, and I already think I’ve made some growth. We both have, and that is so exciting. I could not ask for a better dog by my side, nor could I imagine living without a furry friend nearby. Will she force me to walk back and forth during the school day? Will she force me to not stay out for so long at a time? Sure. But will she get me outside every day and wear a pet sling (which, by the way, best invention ever) as I go about my day? Will she provide a sense of purpose and belonging that can help myself realize organic inner happiness? She sure will. And that makes everything worth every penny, every frustration, every moment, worth it.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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