A few months before I started grad school, I met a woman at brunch with a mutual friend. She had just finished a master’s program in the same field I was going into, so I asked her if she had any advice.
Her response was simple: “Get a dog.”
She didn’t elaborate. I didn’t ask questions.
I went out and adopted a dog.
The world’s greatest dog, actually (but I’m biased). A black puggle named Gladys with an underbite and a passion for collecting stuffed toys.
I firmly believe this is the single greatest decision I have ever made. Here’s why:
1. I’m healthier.
Gladys has to go outside three or four times per day every single day. That means I have to go walk outside three or four times per day every single day. According to the Health app iOS 8 put on my phone, this amounts to 2.33 miles of walking every single day. I feel better, Gladys feels better, and my waistline feels better.
2. My time management has never been better.
Having a dog requires a very basic handle on time management. Gladys forces me to stick to a schedule- she needs routine and I benefit from it. I wake up earlier, get more done, and am better about planning what needs to be done on a daily basis.
3. I’m more social.
Making friends as an adult is really, really hard. Gladys makes that a lot easier because her desire for attention means I am always introducing myself to new people. Even when she isn’t with me, having a unique-looking dog named Gladys is usually a solid conversation starter.
4. I’ve got unconditional support.
Moving to a new city is hard. Grad school is hard. No matter how great my human support system is, there is something about snuggling up with my pup that makes all the stress melt away for just a little while.
5. I laugh. Every. Single. Day.
As the world’s funniest, most special dog (again, I’m biased), Gladys manages to make me laugh each day.
Even if a dog isn’t feasible during your grad school experience (or whatever stage of life you’re in), I guarantee volunteering at a local shelter provides all of the same benefits.