When DPT School Gets RUFF and You Need Your Dog; Jess Werth, SPT
Since I was young, we have always had a family dog. When I went to college, I was just as excited to go home to see my dog as I was to see my family. When I finally started PT school, I began to realize the cliché saying of, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
Many studies have expressed the physical and psychological benefits to owning a dog. For example: companionship, comfort, invaluable and a regular form of daily exercise through walks, security and protection, increased socialization, and overall well being (Knight and Edwards, 2008). For many fellow pet owners, nothing can replace the feeling of coming home to a four-legged friend greeting you as you walk in the door bombarding you with unconditional love and affection.
After spending 4 years without this, I realized half way through my first year in PT school it was time to give it a shot. However, there were many factors I had to consider when making such a big decision. Being in PT school, I commit a lot of time to 7 hour days of class, after class time to practice hands-on skills, and not to mention the weekends before a big exam studying in the library for endless hours.
Financially, I was unsure if I would be able to commit to such a big purchase having to buy a crate, food, toys, and the always surprising vet bills. I was also unsure if my roommates would be on board about bringing a dog into a house full of students who require peace and quiet to study. Especially with dogs, there is always the risk of barking, shedding, and high energy that some people aren’t necessarily ready for. Luckily, we are in a house full of dog lovers so it didn’t take much convincing.
Finally, I had to consider my location. Living in the city, I couldn’t just open the back door to let my dog run out into a backyard whenever it was convenient. I had to make sure there were places I could take him to use the bathroom and run around to relieve pent up energy from the day when I was in school. While there were a number of sacrifices I knew I would have to make, the benefits still seemed to outweigh the risks in getting a companion to get me through the good and bad times of PT school.
Months of contemplation, I found myself with an 8 week old puppy, Albus Dumblecorg, in October of 2016. I had to accommodate my daily routine a bit for him, which was not as challenging as I expected. The benefit to living in the city is I was able to come home everyday for lunch for an hour to take him out and walk him, and when we got out of class I wasn’t sitting in an hour of traffic to get home; I was merely a 7 minute walk away from campus, which worked out great. Not to mention it was a nice break when my brain felt like it would explode after sitting down and studying for hours at a time.
My roller coaster of emotions from life and school can always be cured by Alby from a lick to a face or just laying on the couch cuddling and napping. Financially, it helped me budget my money better because I couldn’t just spend it frugally on things I didn’t need; I had budget for dog food and vet visits each month. I managed my time for training him properly so he wouldn’t be a burden to my roommates while they were trying to study (this was crucial). I found that walks were beneficial for me and Alby to relieve stress. Luckily, my neighbors with dogs were also a great resource to branch out and find other dog parks in the area and it proved to be a great way to meet new people in the area.
Seven months later, even during the stressful times, I do not regret my decision to get a dog in PT school. I will admit at times it is difficult, being on an adjusted schedule than most classmates and missing out on lunchtime bonding, but I wouldn’t trade him for the world. I still have time to study, have a social life, go on vacations, and even get a job. It has helped me with my time management, provided me with more (but good) responsibility. I find myself putting not just Alby, but others ahead of my own needs more frequently, which is a necessary quality to carry in the health care profession.
Any PT student who is interested in getting a pet while in grad school should make sure this is something to commit to. Always consider the benefits and disadvantages when making this decision and be smart in these decisions. Think about time, finances, space, environment, roommates, and most of all budgeting for the number of lint rollers you will have to buy for the next 13 years of your dog's life.