About an hour ago, at 11:30pm, I suddenly felt the urge to take the dogs for a walk. They already got their routine, mandatory walks of the day, but I genuinely wanted to spend time with my dogs outside. While I was walking, it hit me: having finished my last exam today, tonight’s walk was my first ever walk with my dogs without a single responsibility hanging over my head. And let me tell you… it felt good!
My boyfriend and I adopted Cherry in October, a month after we both embarked on our first year of university. Sure, we knew it was a bit crazy but it’s all I’ve dreamt about for years, and finally moving away from my parents meant there was nothing stopping me. Except for common sense, maybe.
My university claims my course has a 65% failure rate in freshman year, and that statistic is probably based on the belief that none of the students will go out and adopt a stray dog from abroad, a month after the course begins.
If you’re reading this just after your high school graduation, and you are considering following my path, I hope I can give you a good idea about how it went for me. If you are an adult who fully comprehends that my actions were crazy, then just enjoy laughing at me!
Basically, having a dog to cuddle after a difficult exam is every student’s dream. Luckily for me, I had a large group of uni students lined up for this experience because my darling rescue dog arrived to me with separation anxiety and I needed all the dog sitters I could get my hands on.
This meant I had to miss most of my lectures, which was honestly fine by me. The bigger problem was that she was also extremely hyperactive and attention seeking so whenever I tried to study she thought of a new trick to distract me. Basically, it was a total miracle that I passed all my courses (with good results too! *yay*), but it could have gone very differently, considering the level of commitment she required.
The other, somewhat obvious challenge, was socialising. Whenever one thinks of freshman year, it’s basically an image of teenagers playing beer-pong with other teenagers gathered around, holding those iconic red cups and cheering (or throwing up from alcohol poisoning).
Well, throughout the entire year I went to one house party and managed to drag myself to a bar twice. It came off as rather odd when I rejected other party invitations with something along the lines of, “sorry my rescue dog has separation anxiety and my foster dog has a bladder infection so I have to stay home to give her antibiotics on a schedule.” Or, “I would love to come but only if I can bring my dog because if I leave her home alone for more than a minute or two, she self harms and no one wants that!“
These kind of responses from a 19-year-old were usually met with a blank stare, followed by an awkward laugh and occasionally an, “I’ll just see you at uni, I guess.” (Which, they didn’t because my dog has separation anxiety.)
Now that I have made ample fun of myself and painted a very embarrassing picture of my first year of university, I want to add that if I could go back in time, I would do it all over again.
Regardless of all her problems, my dog is my absolute rock and the most loyal friend I have. Freshman year was challenging for everyone I know, and having Cherry waiting for me at home everyday has been amazing as well as the dogs forcing me to get some fresh air on a daily basis. I must add I was very lucky to have a huge support system around me to help me through this year, because it would not have been possible alone.
If you are going into freshman year and thinking of adopting a dog, I recommend to think twice about it. There are certain people who can totally do it, but you have to be very committed and imagine it as the equivalent of raising a newborn. Make sure you adopt from a foster home where they can test the dog’s behaviour so you are not left with a separation anxiety dog, or one who barks all day and gets you evicted from your rental.
You will have plenty of years to be a hero and rescue the most difficult dog, but rationally university is already stressful and tough enough (including financially). For now, pick a healthy rescue dog who brings you the maximum amount of joy, who can be there to cheer you up at the end of the day but still allows you to focus on your studies. You will have many opportunities to adopt the difficult dogs once your life is more stable!
And, if you’ve already adopted a crazy dog like I did, enjoy the ride! Every minute is worth it for the love they give back. I can’t wait to spend the summer with my girl to relax and and be more present.