Many law students have considered purchasing or adopting a pet but remain apprehensive, questioning whether the added responsibility of pet ownership during law school is worth the benefits. I considered this very question, and I chose to adopt a dog before the start of my second year. Based on my experience this past year, I have outlined some of the benefits and drawbacks of pet ownership during law school that you will hopefully find helpful to consider before making that decision yourself.
1. Reduces Stress: Although it is not conclusive whether pets actually alleviate stress, in my experience, a pet can help you relax. We all know how stressful the workload can be, and at times we may feel overwhelmed. When I felt stressed and overwhelmed, my dog would come and lay his head on my lap. His affection and calming presence was enough to help me relax and tackle whatever it was I needed to finish.
2. Forces You to Get Outside: Dogs in particular need to be walked and taken out so they can do their “business.” With your law school workload, it is easy to get consumed by your reading and completely neglect your health. Owning a pet, a dog in particular, forces you to take a break and get some fresh air. It is surprising how much more you comprehend after spending a little time outside.
3. Makes You Smile: When feeling neurotic and bitter about how much you have to get done, it is amazing how much a simple smile can lift your mood. To a pet, you are his/her entire world. Something as simple as my dog running to greet me when I get home, wagging his tail because he’s happy to see me, can do wonders to help me instantly feel better. A dog’s love and loyalty will make you smile . . . trust me.
1. Money: As law students, money becomes exponentially more valuable. Pet maintenance requires money. Food, grooming, vet appointments, leashes, and collars all require cash, which may have to come out of your Top Ramen budget. If your budget is particularly tight, you should really consider whether you will have the funds necessary to properly care for a pet. Also keep in mind that unexpected health problems can lead to very expensive vet bills.
2. Ball & Chain: Pets require attention. Dogs in particular need to be taken out at least every four to six hours, unless you train them to go on a pad or in a litter box. However, even if trained to go potty inside the home, a dog should not be left alone for long periods of time on a regular basis for its own mental health. You may find yourself not having the freedom to do or go where you want when you want. For example, if you plan to go somewhere to spend the day, you will either have to take your pet with you or make other accommodations. This can add stress that you do not want to deal with.
3. Training: Pets do not typically come housebroken. Training a dog takes time and tons of patience. A pet will have accidents, and you will need to be ready to take the time to train it. Moreover, adopted pets may come with other behavioral issues such as separation anxiety or a nervous habit such as licking its paws. Breaking pets of these habits is difficult, but it is possible. It just takes patience and persistence. You should consider whether you want to deal with the added stress of a pet’s behavioral problems.
Looking back, if I had to make the decision of whether to take on the responsibility of a pet, I wouldn’t hesitate to adopt again. In fact, I just adopted a second dog, which looks like it may have some behavioral issues that I will need to break. However, even with the added stress, the companionship, love, and loyalty of a dog is priceless and very much wo