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Need a stress buffer? Get a pet!

Since so much of my time is spent hanging out with my (canine) best friend, I was happy to learn last semester that having a pet brings me health benefits as well as companionship.

Besides lowering your blood pressure or lessening anxiety, pets also offer that sense of unconditional love rarely found anywhere else. Everyday, regardless of my mood or personal hygiene, my dog is there to greet me with a friendly lick or a wagging tail, no judgment, and— usually—no attitude.

Pets also encourage social exchange. What better tool to overcome shyness than the friendly, benign topics that are joyfully romping nearby? Though I can only speak for dog-owners, many afternoons of pleasurable chats wouldn’t have occurred without a pet by my side.

It seems completely reasonable, even exciting, that about ten colleges across the country are beginning to offer pet friendly dorms—that fuzzy, familiar reminder of home has proven to positively affect adjustment to the college environment. There are restrictions and guidelines, but they’re enforced for the benefit of your pet and your fellow students.

At some schools your pet must have been with you for a least a year; others are working with fostering organizations—a clever solution for students unsure whether the added responsibility of a pet is feasible.

Pets can benefit the college community in other ways too. Besides the psychological benefits of owning a pet it may encourage on-campus residence. Students who desired to bring their pets and would have had to seek alternative housing can now request, and pay a little more for, dorms that have doggie daycare or purr-friendly floors— which in turn contributes to the fiscal health of the school.

But I’d guarantee most pet owners don’t think about that. They don’t consciously have a pet to alleviate stress (especially if your dog barks like mine) or to encourage selfless thinking.

They have a pet because they believed them to be beneficial long before it was quantitative.

While those without pets may eschew the black jackets covered in hair or the old Volvos that smell brackish and doggy, pet owners can trust they have a stalwart companion and loyal friend— one that may even bolster their immune system.

Emma Casper is a non-traditional junior at Mills College majoring in Psychology with a minor in Child Development.

A good book and a happy dog bring her supreme contentment.