Eat. Study. Sleep. Repeat. That is the typical routine of a medical student, right? Maybe for some; my life seems to be a little more… hairy. You see, I am the proud owner of a 3 year old lab/pyrenees dog named Maggie and a 7 month old kitten named Melatonin, aka Mellie. I have had Maggie since June 2015 and Mellie since mid-Oct 2016. Both of them are rescues from shelters, and I can not imagine my life without them.
People have often asked me how I can balance animals and medical school. They have asked me why I have chosen to take on such responsibility in addition to my studies. My life, the one I chose, consists of feeding and walking and changing litter. Maggie and Mellie do not understand what “the weekend” means or how to NOT shed. They require attention and whine or scratch when they do not receive adequate amounts. They do, however, understand that playing and snuggling are some very important activities for a stressed out medical student. Studying is a time-warp, and if I did not have my girls I would be in a daze. Now I know that studying is important; it is a large component of pursuing my dream of being a doctor. However, I am still a person. I still need companionship and snuggles. Personally without them, I would not be in a good place mentally or physically.
You see, I have a history of isolating myself from people when I am stressed out or sleep for hours when I am not even tired. Before Maggie (whom I have had the longest), I would spend weekends following tough weeks not interacting with a single person. After emotionally and mentally draining days, I would go to bed at 8pm and not even care that I still had stuff to do. It was not a life I wanted to continue living. I knew I wanted more out of my days.
I needed a way to help break the cycle. I have spent many years addressing any issues I have especially concerning mental health. My pets are a way to do just that. Maggie and Mellie provide me with an outlet, a way out of my own head. When I need a study break, I am actually able to have a break. I feel like I am getting more out of my life. I get to take Maggie to the dog park or buy new toys for them. I get to focus on other living beings aside from myself.
Maggie’s need for walks forces me outside into the sun and away from books, which also encourages me to take care of my own health and be active. She LOVES other people, and that allows me to have interactions that are not centered around anatomy or genetics or physical exams. Aside from being outside Maggie is a goof and constantly makes faces at me, which I consistently snap pictures of (see below). Then there is Mellie; she is playful and silly (though her pictures are always serious). She attacks my feet if they are under a blanket. She chases Maggie’s tail. She tries to get into any cabinet that is opened. They both bring laughter and love into my life. They both provide a reason to get up each day (though some days I wouldn’t mind it being past 5:30am…). They also provide a reason to actually clean my apartment regularly. I cannot go more than 2 days without sweeping since my dog likes to shed about a chihuahua worth of hair every few days. I feel sorry for my vacuum especially when Maggie tries to attack it; though that is pretty adorable.
Maggie and Mellie are work; this is true. However, the benefits of having them far outweighs any cons. They make me smile and laugh. They make me get up and walk and clean and have fun. My pets allow me to still feel human and not just a study machine. Plus, I got to provide a life for them that they would not have had otherwise. I love being in medical school and pursuing the dream I have had for over a decade. I also love my fur-crazies. They saved my life just as much as I saved theirs.
I know life will change once clerkships begin in Year Three, but I am blessed with a great support system and new friends that are bound to help me out. Alas. I am, for once, not worrying about the future. For now, I am enjoying any snuggles I can get. Speaking of which, one of them probably needs something at this point…
P.S. I welcome any questions anyone may have concerning having pets while in medical school.