How to Survive College Without Your Pet

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For those of you who have grown up with pets, one of the hardest transitions you may experience in college is suddenly living in an animal-free environment (excluding frat boys, of course). Coming back to your dorm room at night only to be greeted by a cranky roommate is a bit of a culture shock when you’re used to being bowled over by a tail-wagging furry ball of joy. In my experience, missing a pet is even harder than missing your human family. My parents are just a phone call away, but I can’t exactly pet my dog over the phone, now can I, Mom? Which begs the question: How exactly do you survive college without your pets?

Skype them

Although vidchat obviously isn’t the same as being able to hug and squeeze your pet until they struggle for freedom, just seeing that beloved fuzzy face can be enough to ease some of your pet-specific homesickness. It also comes with the added bonus of watching them freak out when they hear your voice. “Yes, Fido. It is I, the disembodied voice of your master. Just hailing you to let you know how damn cute you are.”

Demand pictures and videos from your family

Lindsay Nigh

Lindsay Nigh

When you’re too busy for a Skype session but craving some pet updates, hit up your family for some audio/visual evidence of your fluffy friend’s recent happenings. My own mom has come to expect these demands so often that I get unprompted photographic gifts via text message any time my dog destroys a new toy, gets groomed or does anything particularly cute. It’s a wonderful life.

Volunteer at animal shelters

This has a twofold benefit: Not only do you get to fulfill your pet fix by interacting with some adorable animals, but you’re also helping out an organization that probably needs it. Just be sure you’re willing to put some work in, too—shelters don’t exist just so people can come pet animals they have no intention of adopting. See if you can help out around the shelter, and then you can reward yourself with a little puppy love.

Check out your university’s stress programs

A lot of universities have been jumping on the bandwagon to de-stress their students by bringing dogs onto campus during exam times. No, I’m not kidding. Here in Madison, the university uses the program Dogs On Call, where volunteers and their dogs go through courses that allow them to visit hospitals and stressed out college students as certified pet therapy providers. Not only does this allow you a good half hour with a pet by proxy, but it also brings you together with all the other pet-deprived students on campus.

Make friends with people who have pets

Maybe some of your friends just moved into a house that allows pets and it’s time to not-so-subtly suggest they complete their housewarming with a rescue pet. Or maybe you find out someone in your discussion section has a kitten oh-so-legally living in their apartment. Convince them that you would be a great study buddy and that their apartment is 100% where you guys should meet up. Or, you could take my approach and smile maniacally at people walking their dogs on the street until they ask if you want to pet their dog. Well, sure! I mean, since you asked and all.

Pet sit

A quick Google search will usually reveal tons of people in your area looking for potential pet sitters and dog walkers. Although this may not always work with your school schedule, sometimes it can line up just right and you’ll find yourself the proud surrogate owner of a real live animal for a while. Added bonus: not only do you get some bona fide one-on-one with a pet, you can also make a little money on the side. Getting paid to play with a puppy? Lord almighty, let me live that fantasy.

Count down the days until you’ll see them again

Go ahead, make that countdown clock on your desktop. Create an event in your calendar app. Or play it old-school and make a paper chain that wraps around your apartment. There’s no shame in admitting you can’t wait to see your pets again. Living away from your pets in college can be really difficult, but when you’re welcomed home by a barrage of unconditional love, face-licks and tail-wags, it makes it all worth the wait.

Senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying English with a creative writing emphasis. Lover of movie scores, thunderstorms, and superheroes. And dogs.

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