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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Finding comfort through pets at Tufts

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Fish and service animals are the only pets allowed in on-campus housing.

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One leaves behind a lot when coming to college: family, friends and home-cooked meals, to name a few things.  Though one makes new friends, creates new families and, at Tufts, eats dining hall food that is ranked among the best in U.S. colleges, there is one thing that can rarely be replaced in college: pets.

Despite managing school work, extracurricular activities and social life, some students at Tufts have been able to take care of another living being.

Will Spear is a senior at Tufts living off campus who is planning to graduate a semester early. To stay on schedule, he has had to take summer classes or, during some semesters, take six classes at once. In addition to all of this work, he has been able to raise Beyla, a five-month-old labrador.

Beyla is the fifth Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) dog he has raised so far as an undergraduate. CCI is a non-profit organization that provides people with disabilities with highly trained assistance dogs. Will is a volunteer puppy-raiser for CCI, and his role includes providing a safe home, healthy diet, training and opportunities to socialize with people.

“They evaluate whether you are capable of being a puppy raiser and whether your living situation is compatible with puppy-raising,” Spear said.

It took six months for Spear to gain approval for Beyla to be in all university buildings.

“The university has been supportive," he said. "Some people are uncomfortable around dogs so I just make sure everyone is okay in that scenario. But for the most part, everyone has been very nice and has been excited to meet her."

According to Spear, volunteers typically begin with eight-week-old dogs.

"She has pretty high needs because she is so young,” Spear said. “[But] I have a number of people who would be willing to take care of her. So when I want to get out, people have shifts.”

Senior Sarah Lawton also lives off campus with three housemates -- all of whom have graduated from college -- and two cats, Romulus and Kali.

Since she is the only student in the house, Lawton has not had a problem caring for the cats and tending to her schoolwork or extracurricular obligations.

“Everyone is pretty okay with feeding the cats and taking out the litter when needed," she said. "There are four of us so there is usually someone around to make sure they are safe and played with ... Sometimes their hairball gets annoying but it happens.”

Romulus is a large black cat and Kali, a grey and black mix, is the newest addition.

“Kali just wants Romulus to love her but Romulus, being the older one, doesn’t reciprocate," Lawton said.

Lawton said she finds cats easier to care for than dogs. The cats play outside for a fair portion of the day, keeping themselves busy and lightening the load on the housemates.

“Cats are pretty independent," she said. "So if I need to go to the library and hang out for a while it’s not like they will rip apart your shoes.”

Dogs and cats, however, are not typically welcome in dorms on campus. According to Tufts' online Guide to On-Campus Living, pets and animals other than service animals and fish are not allowed.

Senior Maureen Hilton lives in a single in Stratton Hall with four fish. Hilton said she's had them for a month.

“One of them was apparently pregnant and gave birth to two babies the night after I got them, so I got four for the price of two," Hilton said.

According to Tufts' dorm policies, fish tanks can be no larger than ten gallons. Hilton’s five-gallon tank is well under the limit. The fish themselves may be small, but the task of taking care of them is not.

“Every two weeks I have to clean the tank and take out a quarter of the water to change it," Hilton said. "I change the babies’ water once a week at least because they don’t have a filter. I also feed them once or twice a day."

Though taking on pets as a senior can seem like a lot of stress, Hilton says this isn't the case.

“I always found watching fish as very relaxing, and I figured I would be more motivated to hang out in my room if I had fish [there]," she said.