Photo Caption: Ohio University student Nikki Lanka plays with a puppy at the Athens County Animal Shelter's Playtime with Puppies event, held on East Green November 2011.
For many OU students moving out of the dorms, finding off-campus housing with affordable rent and close campus location takes top priority. But for some, finding a pet-friendly home is just as important.
The temptation to pair up with a four-legged roommate in college is hard to resist when there are pet stores right off-campus as well as a county dog shelter filled with furry puppies begging to be adopted. If dogs aren't your pet of choice, a wide variety of pets abound, from bunnies and birds to snakes, spiders and fish.
Dani Gandolf has worked at a local pet store for about five months. She is a sophomore at OU and part-time puppy owner of a three-month-old mini French bulldog. "Right now he is staying with my sister who lives a little ways away from here, and I keep up with him and try to see him as much as I can," she said.
When Gandolf moves out of the dorms next year, she will finally be able to live with her pet companion. "It is very hard to find a pet-friendly place around here," she said. "Most of the bigger landlord companies do not allow dogs in the houses." Luckily, she was able to find a house that will allow the two to live together next year.
Despite the fact that finding pet-friendly housing limits student options, Gandolf said that doesn't seem to turn students away from adopting puppies. "We have had a few students return the puppies," she said. "But typically because the responsibility becomes too much and they were not ready for it," not necessarily because of landlord conflicts.
As a college student and puppy owner herself, Gandolf recommends that students stay away from breeds with high-energy temperaments, as they require more attention, exercise and living space that the college lifestyle can't easily accommodate.
According to the dog breed selector found on the Animal Planet website, breeds vary in many aspects such as trainability, energy level, health needs and temperament. Some of the high- energy breeds include Australians, Border collies, Siberian huskies and Jack Russell terriers. On the other hand, laid-back dog breeds include bulldogs, mastiffs, pugs, the Pekingese and the shih tzu.
However, OU senior JJ Linser is happy to keep up with the demands of a high-energy breed. He lives off-campus with his four-legged companion named Blitz. "I picked a German shepherd," he said, "because they are extremely intelligent, loyal to no end, great companions, highly energetic and very protective of their home and people they know. I'd feel sorry for anyone who would try to rob my house."
High-energy or laid-back, Gandolf and Linser both emphasized the financial responsibility that comes with owning a pet. "Puppies are very expensive," Gandolf said. "Not only price value, but vitamins, good food and vet visits - you never know what's going to happen. A lot of people don't understand this, and they freak out and have to borrow money or scrape up their entire paycheck."
Linser agrees. "I'm not sure if having a dog in college is for everyone. That being said, if the student understands the time and effort they need to raise a dog, and they're willing to take that on, then I will tell them it will be worth it," he said.
The Summit at Coates Run on Richland Avenue is one of the few pet-friendly housing options for students. Property manager Pam Jackson said about seven percent of current residents room with a four-legged friend. "A lot of properties haven't moved to allowing pets because they don't want that added duty that it takes in the apartments," she said, "so we do get residents that other properties don't get because they don't allow pets."
Any pet other than the common dog or cat is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The only restrictions are that the pet must weigh no more than 50 pounds and be at least one year old, she added.
Despite the added responsibility that comes with pet-friendly living, Jackson said she is happy to offer students the option. "I'm a pet lover myself, and so I understand why it's important to residents," she said.
Summit residents frequently enjoy socials, pool parties and contests planned by the leasing staff, and on occasion they even host parties for Summit pets. "Every once in a while we offer pet socials and contests to dress your pet up," Jackson said. "We also keep pet treats in the office and welcome pets to come by."
Whether you live at The Summit or any other pet-friendly community, Gandolf and Linser only recommend living with a pet as long as you're truly prepared for the added responsibility.
For Linser, the companionship makes the added work worthwhile. "Blitz is always following me around interested in nearly everything I'm doing," he said. It's always nice to come home to a puppy who thinks you're the best thing ever."
If you're serious about getting a pet, be sure to do your research. For dogs or cats, check out Animal Planet's "Pets 101" (animal.discovery.com/petsource) to determine what dog or cat breed best suits your lifestyle. If you prefer a less common animal, there is also a "unique take on pets" link to give you information on peculiar pets, such as the world's largest rodent, the capybara.