In recent years, scientists have shown that there is a link between positive changes in mental and physical health and owning a dog. A dog will never judge you, will listen better than most humans, will encourage you to get outside and exercise, and they have the ability to add so much joy to our lives. This begs the question, when you rescue a dog, who really rescues whom?
My first year of veterinary school was fun, but it was also a stressful adjustment. My course load was much heavier than it was in undergrad, and I felt like I spent too much time studying and not enough time doing things with my friends for fun; however, I didn’t quite know how to change that. I had not thought much about getting a dog because I thought that caring for one would add to my stress level.
During the summer between my first and second year, I was at the animal clinic where I worked when a client came in saying that she needed to rehome her 11 week-old Australian Cattle Dog. Unfortunately, her work schedule had changed so that she did not have the time to properly care for him. The little guy was very sweet, but he was destructive and required a lot of exercise and training. I had always wanted an active dog that could be my outdoor adventure buddy, so I took a leap of faith and adopted him.
The first several weeks were difficult. Finn chewed on my walls, tried to herd everything that moved (including me), and nipped so hard he would draw blood. But with a lot of patience, time, training sessions, and proper exercise, he grew into an amazing companion. By the time school restarted in the fall, he was extremely well-behaved and he adjusted to my new schedule. I have now had Finn for almost two years and when I’m not in school, we go hiking, visit his friends at the dog park, show off our Frisbee skills in the open field at my apartment complex, take agility classes, and train in scent detection. My co-workers and friends say to me quite often: “Imagine how he would have turned out if you hadn’t taken him and done all of that training.” But I like to turn the question around and ask, “How would I have turned out if I hadn’t taken him?”
I noticed an immense change in my mental and physical health after I adopted Finn. I lost the “freshman 15” I had gained during my first year of vet school by taking Finn hiking several times a week. I forced myself to step away from the books for 1-2 hours every day when I came home and dedicated that time to training, exercising, or playing with Finn – and I often had friends over to join in the fun! I became less anxious about my schoolwork and made more time to do things with my friends outside of school. I met tons of new people in my apartment complex and in dog parks just by getting outside more often.
The positive impact that owning a dog has is incredible. I don’t know where Finn or I would be today if that client hadn’t come into the clinic that day to find him a new home. Everyone I know seems to think that I rescued Finn, but I think it was really Finn who rescued me.