Elaina Krafick’s roommate doesn’t borrow her clothes, smuggle in overnight guests or play loud music while she’s trying to study.
Her roommate at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, the United States, this fall is a five-year-old Shih Tzu mix named Loki whose worst habit is taking up most of the bed.
“He stretches out and hogs 80% of it, ” Krafick said, shaking her head. “How is he doing this? He’s so small.”
Krafick and her dog are among the first occupants of a new pet-friendly floor in Edinboro’s Lawrence Towers. The university is piloting the new housing model this fall in response to student requests, said Stacie Wolbert, the university’s associate vice president for student affairs.
Pets make students more comfortable on campus, especially when they’re away from home for the first time, Wolbert said.
“It’s very calming for students who are so far from home. Bringing a pet is like bringing some of home, ” Wolbert said. “And for some students, making friends in a new place is tough. With a pet, it’s always nice at the end of the day to go home to someone who loves them.”
A senior journalism major, Krafick has friends on campus but brought Loki to school for company, too.
“He is a big comfort to me, ” Krafick, 21, of Butler, Pennsylvania, said. “I live alone, and I like someone to talk to.”
She ducks back to the dorm when she can, between classes, to take Loki for quick walks. They take longer walks in the evening when Krafick has more time and when cooler sidewalks are more paw-friendly.
“I try to keep him in a pattern, ” she said.
Loki has adjusted to his new home just fine.
“He likes it here, ” Krafick said. “He’s really good with people.”
Freshmen Julia Toby, 18, from Bloomsburg, and Faith Rounds, 20, of Erie, haven’t had to adjust their schedules for their pets. Toby rooms with a rabbit, Rounds with a pair of guinea pigs.
Holly, the Holland Lop rabbit, doesn’t require walks, just the run of Toby’s dorm room, where she favours a furry area rug and her own pen.
“I can’t imagine not having an animal, ” Toby said. “My house is like a farm. I grew up with all kinds of animals.”
Guinea pigs Hermes Conrad and S’mores Nibbler have their own pen, complete with tiny hammocks, on the floor of Rounds’ room. They squeak in excitement when they hear Rounds’ key in the door and again when she accidentally rattles their food dishes or opens her fridge.
“They think they’re going to get veggies, ” the social work major said. “I have to say, ‘No, this is not for you.’”
A cat and a pair of rats also number among the six pets so far in residence in Lawrence Towers. Edinboro University launched the pet-friendly floor without much fanfare this fall. Rounds and Toby read of the opportunity on the Edinboro University website. The university this year will inform prospective students of the pet-friendly housing option during campus visits and open houses, Wolbert said.
The university expects more furry tenants next semester.
“We had a lot more applications for the floor this fall, but most of the students didn’t follow through with the required paperwork, ” Wolbert said. “We expect more pets in spring.”
By university policy, pets must weigh less than 18kg and be up to date on vaccinations, to be granted residence. Reptiles, fowls and “protective” dog breeds, including pit bulls, are prohibited, although university officials may make case-by-case exceptions.
Pets can be evicted for frequent barking, yowling or other unacceptable behaviour. Owners are responsible for any damage that pets cause.
So far, animals and owners are abiding by the rules.
“We haven’t had issues, ” Wolbert said.
University staff members also have rules to follow regarding pets. Special magnets on dorm room doors alert maintenance and public safety staff that there’s an animal or animals in the rooms. Except in an emergency, staff must contact student pet owners before entering.
Lawrence Towers was chosen for students with pets because it is older than some university residence halls and, with linoleum rather than carpeted floors, is more pet-friendly. The university has installed pet-washing stations in the building and an outdoor patio area that also includes a cleanup station for dog waste.
A nearby dog park is in the works, Wolbert said, and not just for Loki. Animals in residence in Lawrence Towers aren’t the only animals on campus. By Wolbert’s estimate, about 40 service dogs and emotional support animals also live in university housing.
Service dogs are trained to perform tasks for owners with special needs. Emotional support animals provide comfort for students with depression, anxiety or another emotional issue.
The pets on the new pet-friendly floor aren’t required to provide emotional support, but do – and not just for their owners.
“We had a lot of people request to live on that floor who didn’t want the responsibility for an animal but wanted to be near them, ” Wolbert said.
Students flock to Loki when he’s out and about on campus.
“He makes us really popular, ” Krafick said.
Animals on campus are a magnet for students whose pets are at home. Community members who walk their dogs on university grounds and therapy dogs brought for student visits can attract crowds, Wolbert said.
“Unconditional love is great, ” she said. – Erie Times-News/Tribune News Service
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