Dog days don’t have to be over

Students who miss interacting with animals can fill that void without breaking their leases.

Elizabeth Ireland

I miss my dogs. TheyâÄôre dirty and they smell bad most of the time. They slobber a lot and they sneak back into the kitchen every time I send them out.

Despite all their bad rolling habits and tendency to eat absolutely anything, thereâÄôs something calming about having them around. Unfortunately, students living on and around campus rarely get to interact with animals. First of all, itâÄôs impractical for most students to have pets, and second of all, most student housing doesnâÄôt allow them anyway.

A trend has been emerging across the country that is attempting to fill this void. College campuses have been bringing animals to stressed-out students in an attempt to help lower anxiety.

The University of Texas, Boston College, NYU and many other colleges have brought in dogs to help ease studentsâÄô stress during finals week. Yale Law School even has a resident library dog named Monty whom students can check out for half-hour periods.

It makes sense. Therapy dogs are a relatively common sight at malls and other public places; why not universities? Studies have shown that talking to and petting a dog significantly lowers blood pressure and releases endorphins in the human body.

Even the University of Minnesota brought dogs to campus during finals week last spring. I got a chance to pet one in Superblock, and it was a definite highlight in that difficult week.

The unfortunate thing is that these campus doggie visits are infrequent, and for students such as myself, the long-term absence of animals is hard. Having always had pets around, a big part of my transition to living away from home was adapting to the lack of animals.

ItâÄôs great that the University brought dogs to students during finals week. Unfortunately, students are frazzled all year. In fact, if youâÄôre like me, this is the most stressful time of the semester. Classes are starting to demand time. Work is getting busier. Sleeping hours are getting cut. In short, life is tough for poor college students: tired, strained and probably hungry, with no happy animals to pet.

However, college students are known for being resourceful, and there are options for pet-less students who miss having them around. Those with serious interest can kill two birds with one stone: Volunteering at the Humane Society or at a local animal shelter is a great way to get involved in the community and log some serious hours bonding with animals.

For students who donâÄôt have a lot of time to commit to an organization, there is a low-obligation solution. ItâÄôs a rarity to see any pets on campus, but that is not true of all of Minneapolis. In fact, there are areas of the city that are positively teeming with dogs.

Take, for example, the chain of lakes by Uptown: Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet and Lake of the Isles are just a few lakes in the chain, and they all have beautiful lakefront walking paths and sitting areas. They provide a great opportunity to go off campus, work on homework outside and go dog watching.

The walking paths are very popular for dog walkers and are a great place for students to pet some dogs and lower their stress levels. Owners are often happy to let you pet their animals if you ask first.

Instead of sneaking cats or dogs into apartments, college students looking to interact with animals can seek them out simply by leaving campus for a few hours. ItâÄôs not the same as coming home to two lovable slobbery dogs, but it provides some surface-level relief in this very demanding time of the semester.