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Campus critters: Students’ pets on campus

For many students, flying away from the nest and coming to college means leaving behind beloved cats, dogs and other pets. Void of furry friends and companionship, some students are not content to live without their cherished animals. So, despite pets not being allowed on campus per Carleton policy, you may hear the occasional bark or meow — or even the oscillation of a fish — as you walk past the dorms. 

Hannah Davis ’23 has a cat named Luca who lives in a townhouse with her. Luca is not hard to care for, bonds well with Davis’ friends and knows how to play fetch. Because she lives in campus housing, Davis had to go through an application process. “I applied for an ESA (Emotional Support Animal) through SHAC and OAR,” she said. “I’m already connected with both offices since I have a chronic illness called Post-Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. After meeting with my providers and explaining why I felt a cat would be beneficial to me, I was permitted an ESA.”

Davis has thoroughly enjoyed the presence of Luca since she welcomed him onto campus: “I wanted a cat on campus because I grew up with cats! They’re the most comforting companions. Managing my POTS in school can be difficult and the extra support of Luca is really nice.” 

Admittedly, it is much easier to have a pet if you live off-campus, in Northfield Option, which is where most cats and dogs at Carleton actually reside. Sophie Perfetto ’23 brought her German Shepherd-Alaskan Malamute mix, Echo, to campus this year. “All I had to do was ask my landlord for permission,” she said. Perfetto adopted Echo as a junior in high school, and always planned on bringing her to college at some point, “I’m just much happier when she’s around and she helps give my life some routine and motivation.”

Perfetto finds that the pros of having her dog on campus far outweigh the cons. On taking care of Echo during the school year, she commented: “It’s sometimes challenging but mostly fun. Like it doesn’t feel like a chore. Aside from classes, she goes to most places with me and is just happy to be involved with things. I think the hardest part is having to leave her for 4+ hours while I have class/work.”

Echo’s interactions with other students affirm that Perfetto made the right decision in bringing Echo to campus. Perfetto’s favorite part of Echo being here at Carleton with her is “how happy she makes everybody. She’s already made herself pretty well known around campus, and I love seeing how excited people get to see her.” 

For some, caring for a dog might be too much to tackle during the busy academic year. As such, fish can be a popular, low-maintenance choice when it comes to picking a pet to keep at college. Lucy Shapiro ’23, Kat Ahlgren ’23, Melissa Grande ’23, Fiona Gillen ’23 and Scout Riley ’23 share a house fish named Heather. “We have a weekly fish chore rotation to make sure that our fish’s quality of life is top-tier,” Riley said. Shapiro added, “For instance, this week I was in charge of buying new fish food and Scout will be in charge of taking the fish for a walk later.” Other chores include cleaning the fishbowl and spending old-fashioned quality time with Heather.

The house initially decided to invest in a betta (a tropical type of fish) because of the togetherness it provided for the house. “With such busy schedules, we don’t always see each other everyday,” Ahlgren said. “But Heather is something we can all bond over. We all share the common goal of keeping Heather happy and healthy”.

“The bond we share over Heather is probably the most beautiful thing on this earth next to childbirth and the Jersey Shore,” Gillen chimed in. 

Zak Sather ’23 also opted for the fish route back in 2020, when he was in quarantine as a close contact. “I didn’t have anyone to talk to, I thought it would be better to talk to a fish than to thin air,” Sather reflected. Pensively, Sather continued, “my fish, though short-lived, had an outsized impact on my life, and especially on my time in quarantine, due to the companionship we shared, which was a bond like no other.” Unfortunately, Sather’s fish died after ownership was transferred to his 10-year-old brother the following term.

For students who have a special attachment to their pets, coming to Carleton doesn’t necessarily mean saying goodbye to them. You can have a fish in your dorm, and if you live off-campus it’s relatively easy to bring a larger pet with you, as long as your landlord approves. But even if you live in the depths of Goodhue, there is still hope. Carleton’s pet policy allows Service and Emotional Support Animals — but this will take an application and a bit more time. And if you don’t want to take care of an animal at all, but crave interaction with a furry friend, you can visit the Student Wellness Advocates (SWA) dogs multiple times a week. 

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