People stop and do a double take when they pass Lacey Tidwell and Colin Linden playing with their pets in Garland Gregory Hideaway Park.
That is because their pet is a little different than the dogs normally seen running around playing fetch.
“This is Pig the pig,” Tidwell said, holding up a male teacup pot-bellied pig, who squealed to be put down to dig around in the leaves.
College students, striking out on their own for the first time, oftentimes get companionship through pets. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, pets can combat loneliness and add a layer of responsibility to the lives of their owners.
“I wouldn’t suggest getting a pet without a source of income,” Tidwell said. “You cannot rely on your parents all the time, and especially not for this.”
Tidwell reached down and pulled Pig out of the leaves. Pig immediately went back, and there was a small tug-of-war until Tidwell finally got him back on the path.
“He’s sassy,” she said. “He wants to do what he wants to do.”
Tidwell said pigs are a lot smarter than dogs, and a lot easier to train. They also adapt to living inside very well, with Pig even using a litter box.
“We have two dogs, a boxer and a lab,” she said. “We wanted something different, and Pig isn’t like anybody’s pet that I know.”
Tidwell said Pig likes to snuggle with the dogs to go to sleep and they will play together.
“It’s really cute; they’ll just be curled up in a ball,” she said.
Tidwell said having pets gives college students like her a sense of responsibility and acts as a stress reliever for the packed lifestyle of a student.
“It’s nice to be able to come home and just have something to cuddle with,” she said. “It makes a lot of stuff better.”
Tidwell said students who live on-campus should be allowed to have the same opportunities to own pets that off-campus students have.
“I think students should be able to have pets on campus,” she said. “I understand damages may be caused, but students should just pay for it.”
She said students with pets leave them at home and they become the parents’ responsibility since they cannot be brought on campus.
“They end up leaving their dogs or cats at home with their parents,” Tidwell said. “They aren’t the parents’ pet; they don’t want to have to take care of stuff for you.”
Lori McAfee, who owns a male Weimaraner named Odie, said on-campus pets would be a terrible idea.
“The university doesn’t want to deal with the damages that pets could cause, and some people don’t do well with pets,” said McAfee, a senior business management major.
McAfee said pets offer a kind of companionship that does not make the owner completely dependent on other people.
“When my roommates leave, I bring my dog in to sleep with me,” she said. “I like going on runs with him. It gives me something to do.”
McAfee said pets hold a special emotional status with their owners, and good pets can stay with their owners even after they are gone.
“The first dog I ever had was a Weimaraner,” she said. “We had to put her down so when I was looking for a new dog, I knew I wanted Odie when I saw him.”
McAfee said students considering owning pets should make sure they have the proper setup and financial status in order to take care of them.
“If you can afford it, I don’t see anything wrong with it,” she said. “My dog gets fed, and he gets checkups, so people need to not assume that college students can’t afford a pet.”
McAfee said her dog occupies a special spot in her heart.
“Dogs will love you,” she said. “If you take care of your pet, you have a lifelong companion.”
McAfee said keeping your pet from breeding unintentionally is important.
“If a person can’t afford to get their pet spayed or neutered, they should keep them contained,” she said. “If not, you end up with these puppies or kittens that overflow the pounds.”
There are a few animal shelters in Lincoln Parish, with the most prominent being Ruston Animal Control’s shelter and 4 Paws Rescue Inc.
“I got my dog at a shelter,” McAfee said. “I think they do good work in the community.”
Readers who would like to join the group of college students with their own pets can contact the Ruston Animal Shelter at (318) 251-8685 or 4 Paws Rescue Inc. at (318) 251-DOGS.
Email comments to jts...@latech.edu.