If you’ve ever sat and thought to yourself, “Should I take my dog to medical school?” or “Should I even get a pet in med. school?” then this post is for you!
I never met a dog I didn’t like. You know those med. students at parties that are in the corner petting all of the dogs? That’s totally me. No shame. I’m a dog person and by dog person, I mean HUGE dog person. Meet my baby Thor! He is a full blooded, brindle, American Great Dane! He’s 175 pounds at 3 years old and is my very best friend. He loves ice cream, squeaky toys, and long walks around the med. school campus. I can’t tell you how many times he’s been there for me whether I’ve failed a test, gone through a break-up, or just am a stressed out, emotional med. student. Having a dog in medical school is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Granted, it was not the easiest nor the most convenient/fun going through the puppy days during your first year but we made it through to the other side and thank God the puppy stages are over! However, I do miss being able to carry around my dog, even though that was only for a few months!
There are lots of pros and cons to having a pet in medical school. This list differs for the type of animal, obviously. I can’t imagine that list being very long if, for example, you had a pet fish or a lizard and yes a lot of med. students have them. Fun fact, I used to have an iguana and even won 1st place at my county science fair in middle school for doing a project on Iguanas’ eating behaviors. Anyway, the list is very different when comparing dogs to cats. Nothing against cats, but dogs are better 😉 just kidding…I also have a cat: Manny PacMEOW. Cool name, huh?
Life in medical school can be crazy, hectic, unpredictable, stressful and challenging to say the least. Keep this in mind when choosing a type of dog. Obviously, having one of the most hyper breeds is probably not in your best interest but again, to each his own. One of my classmates had an Australian shepherd – she just made sure to always get an hour of exercise with her pup every day. This is something to keep in mind. Are you willing to give up 30 minutes or more a day to walk your pup/play with them at the park? For me, I take frequent study breaks and also like to work out so I essentially was killing two birds with one stone – working out and also walking my dog as my study break! Granted this might take an hour at most out of your day, but don’t forget about letting your puppy out in the morning, at lunch, and then again before bed. If you’re like Thor, you like to go outside as much as you can so sometimes you go out 4-5 times a day, all of which are about 5-10 minutes at a time which also needs to be factored into your schedule. If you’re not willing to get up an extra 15 minutes early to let your dog out before you have a full day of lecture from 8am-noon, getting a dog might not be for you. You are going to have some days where you are required to stay on campus from 8am-5pm even through lunch breaks and sometimes even later. Do you have a friend/roommate that can let your dog out if need be? If you don’t, you have to make other arrangements if that means getting up earlier like I said, racing home after lecture, finding a pet sitter or a doggy day care if you know you’re going to be gone all day, every day, and so on. There are no doggy daycares. 😦
Three words: pet friendly apartments. You’ll quickly learn that finding an apartment in med. school can be tough and it only gets tougher when you need to find a house fit for Fido. I got lucky and had an amazing town house and it was plenty spacious enough. Not only is it harder to find pet friendly apartments but is your breed on the safe list? Don’t get me started on the people that make these lists because it’s about how the dog is raised, not the entire breed. Plus Great Danes are known to be “gentle giants” and how they are on some aggressive breed lists determined by the landlord is beyond me. Like I said, don’t get me started. Furthermore, how much does your dog weigh? So many places have weight limits. Some apartments I was looking at had a limit of 50 pounds…which is basically what almost one of Thor’s legs weigh hahaha. Not only is it hard to find a place fitting all the requirements, but it will be MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE. You will be required to put down a pet deposit which is usually an extra month’s rent or more and will be required to pay for any damage by your pet, etc. To me, having my best friend to cuddle with every night is worth every penny, but if you aren’t willing to pay a couple extra bucks, again, a pet is probably not for you.
Speaking of cost, pets can be expensive. Thor’s food is around 50$ at least once a month. That doesn’t include treats, toys, vet bills, flea medicine, heartworm medicine, leashes, dog crates, food stands, feeding bowls, and the list goes on. All of this is something you need to budget when you get your loans in medical school and it can easily be done. You need to find a vet that is a good fit for both you and your pet in your town.
Are you the type that can only study on campus? This is an easy one. If you absolutely cannot study at home and get easily distracted, you probably shouldn’t get a dog. Now cats, fish, lizards, parrots etc. take significantly less time and attention. You never have to let a cat outside and can be gone all day with no guilt because cats basically take care of themselves – dogs, not so much. This is one of the most CRUCIAL factors to consider when weighing the options of bringing your pet/getting a pet in med.school. I study both on campus and at home and can adapt easily and also make a flexible schedule so when I needed to focus, I’d go spend several hours on campus but when I wanted to study at home, I kid you not, I’d literally recite my notes and try to teach my dog whatever I was learning. Hey, they say if you can teach it then you know it right?!
Training your dog should be a priority. Having a poorly behaved dog that chews up your notes when you go to a group review at the library is never fun, trust me, I know from experience. Again, this will require time and/or a trainer or at least someone with experience in handling/training dogs. This is something to consider – are you going to have time for an additional 15-20 minutes of training your dog during the day – whether that’s teaching them tricks, manners, rules, or socializing them, it’s extremely important to their lives and yours that you do so. If you’re bringing your dog from home who is already trained, your life just got A LOT easier. Can you imagine a Great Dane who stands 6’6” on his hind legs jumping up to greet your friends as they walk through the door? I can. A well behaved dog takes time, effort, and patience!
I’m going to be honest, at times it was very difficult to have Thor during medical school. Yes, he’s a Great Dane so my problems were a lot BIGGER than average. I either had to be in the anatomy lab all day and worried about how I’d make it home to let him out and then cleaned up pee or poop when I couldn’t find someone to let him out, or some days I didn’t feel like taking him on a walk especially when we had 2 feet of snow outside, or when he chewed my beautiful Tory Burch ballet flats that I wore to clinicals (one of the worst days ever!) With that all being said, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. He is literally one of the biggest reasons I made it through my 1st and 2nd year. He has brought more joy to my life than I ever thought possible. Having him was a huge stress reliever. He taught me so much about responsibility and life and having him on a schedule kept me on a schedule and more organized. He was there for me when other humans weren’t and buying him was one of the best decisions I ever made. They say dog’s are a man’s best friend, but for this medical student, my dog is one of the greatest companions I’ve ever had in my life.
I hope this post shed some light on owning a pet in medical school and can help you decide if getting a pet is for you! As always, if you have any questions or want to know more tweet me @StudentDrDiva or leave me comments below! 🙂