Jen Meinhardt, Contributor
I am a commuter student. I drive twenty miles one way to campus at 7:30 in the morning. Rush hour can turn what should be a 25-minute commute into an hour-long affair. After classes conclude, I repeat this trip home, again through afternoon rush. I do this trek five days a week for school and every Saturday for work. On the average week, I spend up to 13 hours in my car — time that I could be spending doing homework or studying. Why did I decide to do this instead of the obviously simpler option of living on campus? My dog, mostly.
Personal animals have historically been banned from most living spaces in the halls of higher education. The recent advent of emotional service animals have brought some animal companions into these typically forbidden spaces, and this is a fantastic thing for the people who need them. However, there are also people who need them and can’t get them for whatever reason that may be. We mostly just suck it up and find dog- and cat-friendly housing and make do, but this is something that just doesn’t work in a city as expensive to live in as Minneapolis.
This means students have to come to a very difficult decision: do we rehome our beloved animals to ease the burdens of university, or do we withstand a lengthy and expensive commute in order to keep our furry family together? For me, the answer was simple; I wasn’t going to give up my dog. Yet there are still days when I’m crawling in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and I’m forced to wonder if those missing 13 hours are worth it.
Now, I may not have the signature of a verified mental health professional, but I know the presence of my dog benefits my personal health. He requires care every single day, and I can’t stay in bed when he needs to eat and go outside for his morning potty. I can’t neglect a walk if I want him to stay healthy. He keeps me motivated, and he gets me moving. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t recognize the ways he enriches my life, and there are many people out there like me. It has become a well documented phenomenon on how the simple act of stroking an animal’s fur can significantly reduce the amount of stress a person feels; this is why campuses bring dogs in during midterms and finals: test scores rise.
Why not take this a step further? Allow students to bring personal animals into the dorms. Obviously, this would need to be well regulated with strict rules and guidelines, but this article isn’t here to dictate what these may entail. I’m here to talk about the benefits.
Having an animal around can teach and encourage personal organization and responsibility. An animal can ease the roughness of transition into college. An animal will get students up and moving after long hours of studying more effectively than if a student is left to do it on their own. I’d bet nine times out of ten most would prefer to stay in bed instead of stretching or walking around. It’s quite possible that with the allowance of animals on campus performance could go up, as well as happiness in general. I know my own happiness would increase, as animal friendly dorms would allow me to dedicate more time to my studies and spend less time in my car, without having to lose my best friend too.
This article first appeared in the Friday, September 28 edition of The Echo.