why every law student should have a pet

I've been in four very different living situations in law school - during my first 1L semester, I started by living on campus by myself in an apartment. For spring semester of 1L, I adopted my dog, Captain. Then I moved to Austria and lived there for the summer between 1L and 2L, both for an internship in Vienna and summer classes at the University of Salzburg. Then, when I returned, I lived in a house with two of my best friends from law school with Captain and their three combined cats.

Having been all over the board with living situations, I can tell you that I was always happiest when I had Captain with me. People have different opinions on getting pets in law school. Some tell you not to because it's one more thing to have to worry about, and there is some truth to that. I used to be able to leave Sacramento for the entire day to go study somewhere and coffee shop hop with friends. With Captain, I couldn't be gone for more than a few hours (unless I took him with me) because he'd need to be let out to go to the bathroom. There was also always fur everywhere in my apartment, thus increasing the frequency of cleaning. However, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

If you're considering getting a pet in law school (not just a dog, although I'm a bit partial), here's my honest take.

1. Pets take time. This is just the truth: any pet is going to require your attention, and it's obviously more of your time that you could be devoting to activities like studying, study groups, office hours, etc. However, it's also guaranteed time that you HAVE to spend away from your books, and I truly think that's a positive in law school - or any type of higher education, really. I walk Captain twice a day every day, including while in law school, and I can't imagine where I'd be at mentally if I didn't have that time away from my desk to just breathe, be outside, and move my body. It was also designated time for me to call my friends, my parents, my boyfriend, or listen to a podcast that I might feel guilty for listening to any other time.

2. Pets give you something to focus on aside from school. Although this point goes somewhat with the first one, it is so easy to focus on nothing but school in law school. In fact, law students are notorious for it - being so self-absorbed that they can't do or talk or even think about anything besides law school. It's unhealthy. Pets pull you out of that.

3. Pets force you to clean your house. Whether or not a clean house is a priority for you to begin with, it will quickly become one with a pet. Cat litter starts to stink if left alone for too long. Dog fur piles up. Pets can pee and poop and throw up and just generally do gross things. They have no shame, because, well - they're animals. You're going to vacuum and dust and de-fur the rug more than you ever thought possible, but it makes your space cleaner for you as well as them.

4. Pets help differentiate home from school. Before I had Captain, I would stay in the library until it closed at midnight, come home, and sometimes continue studying. With a pet, your home becomes not just a place to continue doing school or work, but a place where someone is excited for your presence. For me, this meant coming home was a treat, and not just phase 2 of my already exhausting study sessions.

5. Pets regulate your schedule. Whether or not it's intentional, pets develop schedules. In turn, this helps YOU develop a schedule, which outside of classes can be severely lacking for most law students. Captain gets up at that same time every day, expects a run around 7am and a walk around 5pm every day, wants to play around 6pm, eat dinner around 7pm, and settle down for the night around 8pm. This has given me more stability than any habit tracker ever did. I know that if I don't take him on a run in the morning, he's going to be an absolute spaz when I get home from work (or class, while I was still a student). If I didn't walk him immediately when I got home, he'd pee on my wifi router. Somehow, those consequences were far more motivational than any other kind of guilt or shame I'd inflict upon myself for eating too much sugar or not skipping Starbucks.

I'm a complete dog person and have always grown up with dogs, but even if I was ambivalent toward animals as a whole, I still think getting a pet in law school - or any graduate school, really - is worth it.