College & Pets: The Hardest Part About Leaving Home

After having completed my first week at the University of Vermont, I love college. The first few days were not an easy adjustment, as high school doesn’t prepare you for the gut-wrenching feeling of suddenly being on your own, but I have found that I love it here, and I am happy to call Burlington my home for the next four years.

However, I couldn’t even make it one whole week without a pet, so Saturday afternoon found me making a run to the nearest Petco and becoming the proud new owner of a “fancy” hermit crab. As an animal science major, who could blame me? After all, the whole week I had dropped Oreo crumbs on the dorm floor and scooped them up hurriedly, my first instinct being to get them before one of my three dogs did. I had hesitantly placed my glass water bottle on the edge of my desk, worried that my cat would knock it over later. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a pet in the house, and having one in my dorm seemed to bring about a feeling of normalcy.

Dwight, my new hermit crab, seems to be enjoying himself so far. He has a big tank, and I’ve ordered some climbing toys for him online. I did extensive research on hermit crab care before heading to Petco, and I don’t necessarily recommend hermit crab ownership to everyone. Their tanks must be a certain humidity and temperature, and they require a balanced diet outside of pelleted food (aka, spinach leaves and strawberries that I bring home from the dining hall). However, if the college allows pets, I do recommend fish with a proper filtration system and care.
Leaving pets behind during college is an experience that is different from leaving one’s parents; a student’s family understands that they need to go and spread their wings, but what about the family dog? Does (s)he feel abandoned, even heartbroken? There’s no definitive answer to that, and I think that’s why leaving pets behind can be so hard. My cat is 14 years old, and I am terrified that she may become heartbroken and think that, after 14 years, I have abandoned her. I believe she may know that I’m not abandoning her, and that leaving her for a few months at a time during the next four years (and then four more) is something I have to do, but there is no way to tell. Our pets can’t always express to us everything that we wish they could, so college students (or anyone leaving their pets for an extended period) must just hope for the best and think about how excited Fido will be upon a Thanksgiving reunion.

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