ON TOPIC, OFF-CAMPUS: Best part of off-campus living? My dog.

There are a lot of reasons why you might decide to live on or off-campus, but having a dog (or cat, for you feline fanatics) is one of the best reasons to ditch dorm life. When I decided I was going to move off-campus, I was in no way considering getting a pet. I always thought of having a dog as something I would do later in life, once I was a certified grownup. 

That all changed after my fiance and I were on our way back from a camping trip in the Black Hills and decided to pass the time by reading dog bios on the Humane Society website. Suddenly, we were having a serious conversation about what it would be like to have a dog and making a pros and cons list. 

In July of 2018, we drove to Hawarden, IA to pick up the newest member of our little family: a six-week-old Blue Heeler puppy. After failed adoptions through both the Sioux Falls and Sioux City Humane Societies, we were ready for a furry face to call our own.

Koda, named after the little cub from the Disney movie “Brother Bear,” had our hearts from the moment we set eyes on him. I couldn’t get enough of his floppy brown ears or blue-green eyes that have so much color and depth that they look like they belong to a human. On the drive home, Koda decided to show how silly and playful he was by escaping the backseat, scaling up the back of my seat and climbing through the hole between the seat and headrest so he could stand on my shoulder.

Having a dog isn’t all pets and giggles, especially with a puppy that young. For the first six weeks Koda was home with us, I woke up every two to three hours during the night to take him outside to go to the bathroom. Koda’s crazy puppy energy and stubbornness (with a little help from his razor sharp puppy teeth) resulted in literal blood, sweat and tears while we were training him. 

However, I wouldn’t trade my dog in for the world. Research continues to show that owning a dog can have positive effects on physical health. Dog owners are more likely to be physically active and have lower blood pressure and decreased risk for cardiovascular disease. Perhaps more important for college students is the effect a pet can have on your mental health. The pet-companion relationship has been found to suppress the production of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, and increase the production of neurohormones that leave you feeling happy and nurturing. In other words, having your dog greet you when you walk in the door makes you more relaxed and content. 

My dog is so in tune with my emotions that he has different responses when he knows I’m sad or angry or annoyed. Koda knows exactly when I need a cuddle buddy and when I need my space. He knows every time I pull out my computer to do homework to come curl up next to me because I’m about to be hella stressed out. I love my dog with all of my heart and am proud to be his dog mom. While I prefer off-campus living for many reasons, Koda is the one thing I wouldn’t be able to live without. 

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