Animal companionship enriches your life

AnnMarie Kent

It’s embarrassing to admit, but when I was deciding on a college my dog swayed my decision a lot and when I made the decision I had no idea just how much animals can enrich college.

My original plan was to spend a year at community college and then transfer to the University of Arizona in Tucson and continue my education in dietetics. When I looked at the reality of it, besides the enormous amount of debt I’d be in from out-of-state tuition, I realized it would take me four years in Arizona to get my degree.

That’s four years of my dog’s life that I would see him once or twice a year. He’d be a completely different dog when I moved back to Michigan.

I like to think that my thought process used my dog to symbolize my family as a whole, but it opened my eyes to how important furry affection is to me. I ended up at Northern to stay close to home, and again avoiding the outrageous amount of debt, but I like to think my dog thanks me.

Anyone who has ever looked for housing in Marquette understands the difficulty of finding housing that allows pets, so I resigned myself to not being able to have a pet during college a long time ago. Besides, do I really have time to care for the well-being of an animal that needs constant attention? Definitely not.

Then I was gifted with Luna the hedgehog. I took in the aging hedgehog from a friend, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a terribly long friendship. Luna taught me a lot in the six short months we knew each other; the greatest thing I learned was how therapeutic it can be to a college student to have something to care for.

When Luna died, while expected, it felt like something was missing, not because I needed something to comfort me, but I felt like I needed something to care for.

I decided to adopt another hedgehog, so I did my research and found a breeder in Michigan who was dedicated to the care that babies and mothers need. The breeder I chose understands that babies need a special kind of care to nurture a friendly demeanor and that mothers need plenty of rest between litters. I didn’t want a baby from a mother who was on its way to being bred to death. I made the trek down to Quality Quills in Allendale, Michigan.

The day I got my baby girl was the most exciting day of 2016 for me. Zetty—named after the great Henrik Zetterberg—has reaffirmed everything that Luna taught me and more. Suddenly I had a tiny animal that needed me to help it learn and grow into an adult.

The most fun Zetty and I have had together was when I tried to teach her to use her exercise wheel. It didn’t occur to me until the first few weeks when Zetty wasn’t using her wheel that understanding and exercise wheel wasn’t an innate knowledge for animals.

So the first few times I put her in the wheel and slowly turned it for her she just sat there and slid down it, not understanding what was going on. I had to keep my hand on the side of the wheel to keep her from crawling out. So after days of trying, she finally understood if she walks when the wheel moves then she can move and eventually run.

Now every night when I hear the nocturnal lady running on her wheel I turn over in bed with a satisfied smile because I taught her something that will keep her happy for the rest of her life.

So not only do I get to see my dog anytime I want to go home, but he taught me about my love for animals, which gave me something that has enriched my life more than I ever could have imagined.