It’s late October and our Seasonal Affective Disorders are blooming beautifully, if a little early this year. That means it’s time to compensate for our lack of natural dopamine with outside resources, and what better endorphinbooster than a puppy, right?
Maybe not. There are pet-friendly college campuses out there — Hogwarts, for example, will let you have a cat, rat or toad in your dorm — but UM is not one of them.
Our residence halls allow you a fish in a tank under 10 gallons, but don’t get one unless you’re ready to commit. My freshman-year roommate got a fish (a betta called Mick Jagger, may God rest his soul), and who took care of him? Not the girl who drank Evan Williams for breakfast, no sir. I did. I fed that little bastard and cleaned his bowl when she was too busy chainsmoking out the window. And at the end of spring semester, when she moved out, she left little Mick there to fend for himself.
Now I’m not proud of what happened next, but I had no way of transporting a betta fish from Missoula to Helena. I left Mick there, in the utility closet on Jesse Hall’s ninth floor. Legend has it that if you listen hard enough on a dark, rainy night, you can still hear his “glub-glubs” for help. If you say “Mick Jagger” three times in the mirror, my old roommate will appear and blow cigarette smoke in your face while you try to sleep.
Not all college freshmen are such trainwrecks that they’d abandon a fish to die in a closet, but most aren’t ready for the responsibility of a pet.
Pets, and especially dogs, take a substantial dedication of your time and money — two things college students are notoriously without.
The average cost of owning a dog is around $1,270, while a cat is $1,070, barring any illness or injury. That doesn’t factor the increase in your rent — pet-friendly housing is both rare and pricey in Missoula, and most landlords will charge you an additional deposit and monthlyfee. While cats are pretty easy to harbor illegally, dogs are obvious and violating your lease can get you evicted. Even if you can find somewhere willing to house your furry friend, finding a fenced yard is another hurdle entirely. Big dogs need a lot of exercise, so if you can’t set them loose in your yard or at least walk them daily, you might be better off with a cat or rabbit.
So let’s say you’re out of the dorms, making enough money to support yourself and another creature — including an emergency fund just in case you or your pet gets sick or injured — and you have enough free time to dedicate a few hours daily to exercising and loving on your pet. Am I saying you shouldn’t get a pet? Of course not. There are even companion animal laws that can help you get around Missoula landlord’s (and even UM Housing’s) anti-pet fascism.
I’m just saying there are serious factors — factors that a frustrating amount of young people look past when getting their first pet — to consider before going all-in.
So while adopting a pet is the ultimate reaction to cuffing season, until you are responsible enough (financially and otherwise) to care for another living being, let’s stick with a HappyLight this year.