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Students find companions in pets

Emma Russ | Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When alumni laud the friendships forged at Notre Dame, they usually are referring to their classmates. Some students, however, find extra companionship in dorm or house pets.

Senior Matt Jensen said his Betta Fish, Goldie, has been not only a companion since freshman year, but an ongoing lesson in responsibility.

“Having a pet during my time at Notre Dame has been a fantastic and memorable experience,” he said. “Not only is she more loyal than my roommates, but her daily care stimulates my skills of discipline and careful responsibility during these formative years of my life.”

While du Lac restricts students to “non-carnivorous fish in an aquarium less than 30 gallons,” some off-campus students use their newfound freedom to house a four-legged pet.

Senior Mike Rose said the demands of his dog, Sammy, have forced him to establish a caretaking routine with his housemates.

“I live at a house with my friends on the soccer team and a black lab named Sammy,” Rose said. “He has a pretty set schedule, which he reminds us of constantly, but between housemates, we are all able to split most of the duties.”

While busy students’ schedules may not cater to dog ownership, Rose said friends and family have been willing to share the responsibilities when necessary.

“We are able to have people take care of Sammy if we are out of town for a team trip or for any other reason, because pretty much anyone that meets him loves him,” he said.

Senior Alyssa Sappenfield said the companionship of her cat Mango outweighs the added responsibility and expense.

“During breaks, I always have to think about who can look after her,” she said. “I take care of everything concerning her, so it is a good practice in responsibility. This means food, litter, toys and vet bills, which can be pricey. Overall though, you get a little pal that loves you, which is really great.”

Rose said he also enjoys the sense of companionship he gets from having a pet in the house.

“One of the benefits of having the dog around is that there’s always someone at the house to entertain you or play with you even if all of the housemates are gone,” he said.

Junior Shannon Hughes said she wishes on-campus students had more freedom with regard to housing pets.

“Having pets around just makes everyone feel happier,” Hughes said. “I wish the rules were more lenient regarding pets in the dorms, but I understand how difficulties might arise with pets larger than fish.”

Rose suggested that small, caged animals might be a reasonable option for students if du Lac were modified.

“ND should open their policy up for animals, even though it would be tough to monitor,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is ready for dogs or cats in the dorms yet, but even smaller, less care-intensive animals would be good for students because it teaches them a lot of responsibility, and they are fun to play with. Could you imagine gerbil balls running through the dorms? It could be hilarious.”

While some residence halls have adopted dogs, Hughes, a Walsh Hall resident, said campus could do with a few more.

“We don’t have a dog in Walsh, but if we do ever get one, I think it will get more than enough love,” she said. “There are so many people in the dorm, and I think there would be more than enough people willing and happy to care for a dog.”