By Georgia Slater
Heading off to college brings a lot of responsibility for students; you’re responsible for your own schoolwork, getting up on time for class and even doing your own laundry. However, some students take on additional responsibility if they choose to care for a pet on campus.
Students decide to own pets on campus for a variety of reasons, whether for emotional support or companionship. But, these forever friends do come with a price, and it’s not extremely easy when living on a college student budget.
Sophomore journalism major Abby Wallisch decided to train a service dog because she could get a puppy without having to pay all the expenses or commit to having a dog for 13 years or longer.
Wallisch, who has been with her dog Geer for three months already, will be training her puppy for 9-18 months, teaching him basic commands and social obedience.
One of the ways she does this is by taking him to all her classes. Her daily routine includes taking him out to the bathroom, feeding him and then going off to class. On Mondays and Wednesdays, Geer has a puppy play date with other service dogs in training and then continues on to the rest of the school day, she said.
“The organization pays for all the basic requirements for Geer, including food,” said Wallisch. “ I use his food for treats and then randomly will buy him toys, but for the most part I don’t spend any money on him.”
Although Wallisch does not have expenses for her pet, she does have to pay more in a different sense. As part of the service dog program, Wallisch has to put in more time than the average owner in training Geer.
“It is a lot of work because unlike a regular house dog, whenever Geer has his vest on I have to make sure he is accurately learning and doing what he needs to do,” Wallisch said. “It is always a learning opportunity so you have to be committed to taking out time and energy to make sure you are teaching them everything they need to know.”
However, training Geer is not a tedious task she needs to do everyday, and it is truly rewarding, Wallisch added. Training him for someone who he can help makes it all worth it, she said.
For senior hearing and speech sciences major Alanna Schloss, owning a dog on campus is “pretty easy” overall.
Schloss’ dog Bentley was adopted last year at 11 weeks old after she and her friends thought that their apartment was missing something. Technically, Bentley is Schloss’ dog, as her mom agreed to pay for the expenses if the roommates trained and raised him for the year.
“When we moved into Terrapin Row and found out they let us have pets, we took full advantage of it,” Schloss said. “They required us to have a doctor fill out a form saying why I would benefit from a service dog.”
“I thought that [a dog] would help provide stress relief from my schoolwork and would overall increase my success as a student this year,” she said.
Having a dog is very expensive, Schloss explained. Her mom pays for the pricey medical costs that Schloss could not otherwise afford as a college student, and she and her roommates are responsible for the food and treats, which is overall around $30 a month. The best part though, she added, is that they never need to pay for a pet-sitter; everyone wants to do it for free.
“My happiness exponentially increased having a dog at school with me, and if anyone is contemplating getting one, I 100 percent say you should,” said Schloss.