For graduate student Ashley Benners, most mornings begin around 8 a.m. with a pouncing, white, three-legged kitten on her head.
She feeds her kitten and then proceeds to fall back asleep only to rise a few hours later to begin her day.
With looming schoolwork, stress and jobs, some students make time in their schedule for the companionship afforded through owning a pet.
According to the 2009-10 National Pet Owners Survey, 62 percent of U.S. households own a pet, which is equivalent to 71.4 million homes. But owning a pet while being a full-time student can be difficult.
Benners adopted her kitten, Aerie, by chance last year when her roommate’s friend realized her apartment complex did not allow pets.
“Aerie came to me when I was having a rough semester,” she said. “Having her around gave me something positive to focus on and was very therapeutic.”
The kitten’s inverted hind leg did not deter Benners from adopting her.
“If anything, I felt more compelled to take her because I feared that no one else would want to pay for an expensive surgery, especially college-aged students,” she said.
Coming home at the end of the day to her awaiting kitten is the highlight of her day, Benners said.
Likewise, sophomore Hannah Ward owns a cairn terrier named Thomas. She said Thomas teaches her responsibility.
“I think it’s advantageous for later on in life,” she said. “Having a pet on your own, caring for it completely, you’re responsible for someone else, even though it’s not a human.”
Ward got Thomas in 2007 but had to leave him in her hometown of Sparta because of the Department of Housing and Residential Education’s policy regarding pets.
Akansha Kanodia, a resident adviser of Craige Residence Hall, said the policy prohibits students from having any pets in the dorms besides fish. While she has yet to encounter a resident with a pet, a resident’s mom once brought a dog during her visit.
Junior Tarik Yassien manages to make time for his German shepherd-husky mix, Cheza, while also balancing academics and two part-time jobs.
“I’ve wanted a dog since I was five or six, but my parents didn’t think it was a good idea,” he said. “But as soon as I got the chance when I moved into a house, I went for it.”
Even as an adult, his parents still had their doubts about whether he would be able to care for an animal as part of his busy lifestyle. But Yassien said having a dog has brought him and his roommates together, everyone contributing and taking care of her.
Aside from learning responsibility, students also gain unconditional love through their pet.
“At the end of the day, even if you screw up, your dog still loves you,” Ward said.
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