Dog Days

The high cost of loving Rufus

By Caylin Harris

Dog Days

At 6 a.m. on a Saturday, I hear a whining noise coming from my bedroom floor. I clamp a pillow over my head. The whining turns to growling. Then I feel a tug on my comforter accompanied by a ripping sound.

I wake up, stumble over to my closet, jam my feet into sneakers, and wrap a blanket around my shoulders. I grab the leash from the hook on the wall and take my dog, Rufus, outside.

Rufus was an impulse buy. I bought him the summer before my junior year, when I went into a pet store “just to look.” I walked out carrying a two-pound ball of cream-colored fur. To this day, I have no idea what possessed me to buy him. I like to blame the woman who sold him to me. She claimed caring for him would be easy.

Easy my ass. Let me give it to you straight: owning a pet is too much responsibility for a college student. I learned that the hard way. First, there is the financial commitment. I used to get panic attacks when I took Rufus to the vet. I walked in, the doctors wiggled him around, gave him a shot, and then charged me $200. I still can’t figure out how they had the nerve to charge that much every visit.

Rufus also needs food. I never knew how many different brands of dog food existed until I strolled into PETCO. I must have looked naïve the first time I went because a salesperson talked me into buying the organic, free-range, cruelty-free brand of dog food. For the first few months of his life, Rufus ate better than I did. Now I buy a less expensive brand and order it online to save money.

Owning a pet also takes a ton of time. After class, I have no choice but to walk home and take Rufus out. Well, I do have a choice, but the alternative is scrubbing dog pee from the carpet.

When I have a week filled with tests, papers, and meetings, Rufus doesn’t get many walks. This results in a somewhat rebellious attitude: he eats holes in my clothes, growls ferociously, and hides under my bed. I walk him whenever I can, but sometimes that still isn’t good enough.

Once, after a busy, walkless week, I took Rufus to go to the bathroom without his leash. Usually, he runs right back onto the porch. But this particular morning, I had to chase him around in sandals while wrapped in a blanket. Rufus and I managed to alienate several neighbors and I almost sprained my ankle. But I can’t really blame him for his behavior that morning — he just wanted to play.

Despite the logistics, it is fun coming home to Rufus’ wiggling body and frenetic licking. And when he curls up on my lap while I’m reading about Communications Law, I can’t complain. His adoring gaze is encouraging no matter how badly I misunderstand the material. But these moments are rare because of my demanding schedule.

College students shouldn’t own pets. We are still learning how to take care of ourselves, and it isn’t fair to the pets if we don’t have the time to care for them properly. Personally, I have decided that Rufus is the right dog at the wrong time. Until my life settles down, I will have to accept his rebellious moments as reminders to step it up as his owner.

CultureThe Editors