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College Tours and Dogs in Dorm Rooms

The kids are back in school, and that means this year’s graduating seniors are deciding which colleges they’ll be heading for next year. Planning a road trip is a great way to do your campus visits – and why not make it pet friendly and include your dog in the fun? Maria Rainier did just that, and she’s here today to share her experience. 

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By the time my senior year of high school rolled around, like most 18-year olds, I was ready to move on. It’s not that I didn’t like high school, my house, or my hometown – it was just time for me to spread my wings somewhere new. Being within a thousand miles of home sounded about right, and that stretched my options across several states throughout the southwest.

When spring break arrived, I had narrowed my search down to three schools: one in southern California, one in Colorado, and one in Texas. With a history of family road trips and far-flung vacation destinations, it didn’t take much to convince my father to take a week and drive to each school for a my campus visit. And of course,  no road trip would be complete without my family’s extremely large and very smelly black Labrador, KC.

College Tours and Labradors in Dorm Rooms_Image

Taking to the Road

And so, we began. While this certainly wasn’t a traditional college touring trip, it wasn’t so unusual for my family. I piled into the car with my father and KC, ready to hit the road and explore my potential homes for the next four years. Unlike our previous road trips growing up, KC had the entire backseat of the car to himself—which certainly pleased him. As kids, KC, my sister, and I would share the backseat of our small car, while my dad drove and my mother manned the radio (usually classical) from the passenger seat. Those of you who have done time in a three-person backseat with a slightly obese Labrador and a bratty younger sister can sympathize. But things were different this time around. I manned the radio playing dad’s and my favorite tunes and KC lounged in the back, smudging Labrador nose marks on the windows.

Dog in Car

We started in the west. Our first stop was a small school in California and KC came along with us on the tour. He walked carefully in heel with my father as we took in the campus. I suppose it was a little strange to bring the family labrador along for a college visits, but the three of us were un-phased, and everyone acted like it was perfectly normal.

Our next stop was the university in Colorado. Colorado was no new territory for us and KC certainly preferred the Rockies over the coast of southern California. As it turns out, so did I! Again, we walked around campus (lab in tow), talked with some students, and ate at the campus dining hall. While I enjoyed both of these campuses and visits, neither quite felt like home.

Our last stop was a college in west central Texas. I was least excited about this school and this part of the road trip – it was a long trek from the Colorado Rockies to the low desert of west Texas, but we made the drive anyway. My father and I were getting a little tired of being in the car by this time, but KC sat pleasantly in the back, perfectly at home. We arrived on campus in the mid-afternoon and I had arranged to stay in the dorm for the night with a current student. This would be my first dorm room experience – I was very excited (and nervous).

Spending the Night

The plan was to leave my dad and my dog in a pet friendly hotel room, but when I met my host student she completely fell in love with KC! She had two yellow labs at home and was thrilled to have KC around, so we decided he should spend the night with us. The hall manager and my father agreed that an exception could be made to the school policy, and KC, Krissy, and I spent the night together in the college dorm. I slept on the empty bed next to Krissy’s (her roommate was out of town) and KC slept dutifully at our feet. Perhaps it had something to do with KC being there with me, but this dorm room and this beautiful campus felt like home. Though I never thought Texas would win me over, this became home for the next four years of my life.

Sleeping Dog

Maria Rainier is a freelance higher education blogger who loves to talk about the universal appeal of online education. She firmly believes that online master’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees will become the norm for 21st century higher learning. Leave her some comments below!

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  • Love this story! I am all for dogs being in schools whether college or grade schools. I think that pets can reduce some the stress that our kids are facing in school today!

  • Five years ago when I was looking at colleges, we decided to road trip with our three dogs (GSD, GSD mix, and Husky Mix). We went from Ohio all the way down to South Carolina. Anytime I tell people about this trip they get this look of sympathy on their face, and I quickly correct them “No, no! The trip was amazing!” We didn’t actually tour the schools at this point as I was just a Junior in High School. we just drove around the campuses to get a feel of them. It was one of the best vacations ever!

  • I am glad Wright State is doing this!

  • What a fantastic road trip! I know our therapy dog group is asked sometimes to come and spend time with the new college students in town because a lot of them really miss dogs at home. I’m glad KC helped you pick the perfect college, and I think that’s a great trip to take as a last bit of family time together!

  • Wright State has puppies!! http://webapp2.wright.edu/…/news…/2012/05/01/raider-pup/ Puppies in training to be service dogs. Students will be training the puppies for approx 16 weeks and then puppies will be arriving!! I saw one with the handler yesterday, so wonderful. Of course, WSU has many many service dogs on campus and also has a dog park on campus for all the hard working service dogs. They are amazing.

  • Dogs would certainly bring a more home-like atmosphere to college life for many of us. It would have been great if KC could have continued to be Maria’s roommate.Ithaca College has students each year who are puppy raisers for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. It’s great seeing dogs on campus and provides great socialization ops.

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