Thursday, April 7, 2011

College Students and Pets

Several weeks ago, I was contacted by Samantha Heckathorn, a 4th year Journalism student at OSU, concerning an article she was writing with regard to "college students and pets". She asked if I would be open to an interview to share my opinions and give some advice to students who are considering adopting a dog.

Well, of course, I said yes as it's a rare occasion when I pass up the opportunity to give "my" opinion on anything ... and even more rare when someone actually asks for it.

The interview went very well and Samantha did an excellent job with her questions. It was apparent she had done her homework on this subject and was prepared to ask all the right questions so that she could accurately report the "pro's and con's" of being in college and a pet owner at the same time.

Samantha got an "A" for her article and graciously sent me a copy. I felt it was too good not to share (see below).

Two thumbs up for Samantha for writing such a great, educational article.

I'm sure we all wish her well in her chosen career as a journalist.

As always, thanks for taking time to check out the latest postings on My Pet Rescue Blog and I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did.

My best to everyone,

Jo Ann & "gang"

By Samantha Heckathorn

Joellen Flucke watched as her 113-pound Rottweiler-labrador retriever mix, Cooper, bounced around Tuttle Park. Cooper, a handsome black and tan dog with a friendly disposition, stood nearly to Flucke’s hips. Flucke and her boyfriend Frank adopted Cooper from the Fayette County animal shelter when he was only three months old and weighed 30 pounds. Her vet told her then that he would only reach 80 to 90 pounds, and she was surprised when Cooper passed that point. Despite having such a massive dog, Flucke is still glad she made the decision to adopt.

“Frank wanted a purebred Rottweiler from a breeder, and we both thought Rottweilers were very handsome dogs. But I said, ‘There are so many dogs out there in need of a good home, why don’t we adopt one?’ So I convinced him,” said the fourth-year zoology major.

College students wishing to adopt a companion of their own may think that the process is as simple as picking out a pup. But an adoption requires a lot of research, understanding and patience. Research as far as what breed of dog to get, how much time you can allot to your dog’s schedule, and if you are able to financially support it. Understanding that in the end, adoption may not be an option. And patience that you may not find the right dog on the first try or even the first 10 tries. Here are some things to consider before adopting:

1. Do Your Research
First and foremost, it is important to know that your residence or future residence even allows dogs. Many only allow pets up to a certain weight limit, or restrict certain breeds. Flucke found out the hard way. Even though Flucke has had the same landlord for several years without an altercation, she knew that her landlord didn’t allow dogs and somehow word got out about Cooper. After much discussion, her landlord decided she could keep Cooper—at a hefty price. Flucke had to pay about $1300 for a security deposit.

With a large number of college students living in apartments, considering the size of the dog is imperative. Jo Ann Jenkins, founder of Jo Ann’s Foster Animals in Columbus, said that smaller, low-energy dogs are better for students. Large dogs don’t do well because they need a lot of exercise and crating them for long periods of the day can cause circulatory problems, Jenkins said.

The other factor to consider is how much howling or barking the dog will do.

“All dogs bark, but some more than others,” Jenkins said. “Hound dogs don’t make good apartment dogs. You share walls with people, you don’t want the dog to howl and carry on as soon as you walk out the door. Your neighbor won’t appreciate getting no sleep.”

Jenkins said the other problem is the number of people who want a puppy as opposed to an older dog. Puppies require more time and effort as they are not trained and have a tendency to chew on anything in sight. Most people won’t even accept a dog that’s over a year old, Jenkins said.

The financial cost of a dog is an important factor. Before considering adopting, take the time to budget out monthly costs of food, toys and vet visits. Puppies typically have higher medical bills because of vaccinations or accidents. Flucke said when Cooper was a puppy, he got into a five-pound bag of dog food and consumed the entire thing in a matter of minutes. The mishap required a trip to the emergency animal hospital where Cooper needed to have an injection that made him regurgitate all the food. Middle-aged dogs will need yearly vaccinations and might need some type of prescription, like heartworm medicine. Jenkins also said unless you are a licensed breeder, it is essential to get your puppy spayed or neutered to avoid population problems.

2. Dog-Proof Your Residence
Even if you adopt an older dog, your home needs to be ready for it. Make sure your floor is clean and there is nothing the dog can get into, like food or cleaning supplies. Also pick up or hide all electrical cords that may be accessible to the dog to prevent them from chewing on the cords.
Jenkins said that crates are a must. She said they are not considered cruel because dogs are den animals by nature and like the security of the crate. It is important to crate your dog during the day while you are gone, but Jenkins also suggests crating them at night for a while until they become trustworthy. To make the dog more comfortable, you can put the crate in your bedroom where you sleep so the dog will recognize your scent. Another option is to drape an old article of clothing over the crate so the dog has your scent close, Jenkins says.

“Dogs in new surroundings don’t understand that they shouldn’t be scared, and who knows what baggage they’re coming with,” Jenkins said. “So invest in a crate for the safety of the animal and the safety of your personal belongings.”

Jenkins also said that water bottles are a must in a crate because it allows the dog to drink without having so much that they have an accident. Do not just put a water dish in the crate because they will most likely knock it over.

3. Adjust Your Schedule to Fit the Dog’s Life
Time is the most important factor when it comes to owning a dog, and college students’ lack of time is what prevents a lot of rescues from adopting to them, Jenkins said.

“To be perfectly honest, most rescues don’t adopt to college students,” Jenkins said. “It’s not that they’re not good people. But they don’t know their schedule from term to term; they move around, they might have inadequate facilities for housing a dog. Where do their lives leave time to take care of a dog?”

Dogs need to be put on a feeding schedule consistently from day to day. Jenkins said they should be supervised while eating and food should never be left out for them to just graze.

Michelle Marczika, a 1982 OSU graduate and now a volunteer for the Midwest Boston Terrier Rescue, adopted her first dog during her senior year at OSU. Marczika’s lab mix “Guerdon” (German for “reward”) was only 12 weeks old when she got it. She said that in the case of a puppy, you have to be willing to get up a few times a night to let the dog out.

“The main thing is you have to want the dog more than you want to party. I wouldn’t recommend that every student adopts, but if they’re devoted enough then it would be fine,” Marczika said.

Dogs also require being let out frequently during the day to relieve themselves, as well as being taken out for exercise and play.

“They want your attention like children, so they get into mischief,” Jenkins said. “Even if they’re being scolded they’re still getting attention. So start giving them more attention by taking them on walks. They will feel like you are spending time with them and it will also wear them out more.”

4. If Adoption Doesn’t Work Out, Volunteer
Jenkins suggests volunteering with an animal shelter or rescue organization to get a better idea of the time and effort that dogs require. But if adoption isn’t possible, volunteers are always appreciated.

Lou Steinke has been the volunteer coordinator at the Franklin County Animal Shelter for seven years. He suggests that interested students go through volunteer training, the dates for which can be found at Students can also help by walking the dogs, grooming them, sorting newspapers for cages, taking pictures of the dogs for the website, working off-site events, and working donation drives for towels and other needed items.

Marczika said MWBTR needs help in transporting dogs from shelters where they are released to their temporary foster homes. Visit to learn more about volunteering with them.

“Most students miss their dogs from back home, so they like to volunteer because they get to spend time with the dogs, and they want to make the dogs’ stay here as good as possible,” Steinke said.

Jenkins feels that most college students have so much uncertainty at this point in their lives that they aren’t able to provide what the animal needs.

“To us, we’ve saved a life and put a lot of time, money and love into them. The last thing we want to do is see them end up being abandoned,” Jenkins said.

But Jenkins commends students who are able to adopt for their decision to do so.

“It’s encouraging to know that there are young adults who want to do the right thing,” Jenkins said. “We see so much horror in rescue that when we see something positive, it gives us hope.”

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