10 Ways Having A Dog Prepared Me For College (Guest Blog)

For anyone thinking about going to college, or for anyone already there, there are so many lessons to learn. In this week’s guest blog, Johanna shares all the ways growing up with dogs helped prepare her for college and other life lessons she learned from growing up with dogs and siblings.

1. The Power of Nonverbal Cues
For those of you that don’t know, dogs can’t talk. I don’t care what stupid T.V. show you’ve watched or whether you pretend to be your dog’s voice for them, they cannot talk. Because they cannot talk, I have learned that there are other ways to communicate with others than with just with your voice. I have learned to recognize that a paw to the face means keep petting me and a body angled away from me means that this boy does not want to talk.

2. Communication
While dogs may not be able to communicate verbally (or at least not using words), most humans can’t either. We live in a society that is always asking people to share their stories without ever teaching someone how to. Having dogs meant I knew from a young age that there would be things that could not communicate well with me and that is okay. These interactions are still valuable. My dog may not be able to speak but she’s really good at lying her head on your lap and the girl in my theater group may be the worst conversationalist I’ve ever met but her voice constantly reminds me why I love to perform.

3. Sometimes Work is Work
I hear that dogs are fun to have. I guess some people like throwing a Frisbee around or taking walks on the beach with a dog that refuses to listen. But let’s not forget that having a dog is work. You have to pick up their poop and sweep the floor often and take them for vet appointments. There is no avoiding that sometimes work is just work. College is the same, sometimes I will have assignments that are hard and obligations that are not fun, sometimes college is just work. That doesn’t mean college can’t be fun and the best experience ever, a dog can still be your best friend, but sometimes work is work.

4. It is Important to Sit in the Uncomfortable
I think dogs are too loud. I have spent quite a lot of time being uncomfortable with the noise level of my house. But it has enabled me to value the power of the uncomfortable because they allow for growth and change. These moments come in all forms from barking dogs to new classes and all bring about something somewhat good in the end.

5.  Someone is Always Watching You
My dogs were always staring at me growing up. I don’t know what it is about them, maybe they’re just creeping. College isn’t really any different, don’t worry people aren’t staring, but it’s really hard to find alone time. Even when you go into the “real” world there is always someone there that knows you or knows someone who knows you. Act accordingly.

6. Sharing is Caring
I have shared everything in my life with my siblings and with my dogs. I’ve shared attention and floor space and socks and shoes and long walks. I know how to share really well and it’s really come in handy when it comes to sharing a bathroom with thirty other girls and a room with two girls who only know the single room lifestyle. You wouldn’t believe how much space others can take up.

7. What They Don’t Tell You about Hair Care
It is very important to clean up your hair after yourself. This includes the dog hair covering your floor and the human hair in the shower drain and all over the bathroom walls. Always clean up your hair. Thank you.

8. Speaking up Matters
While I may detest how vocal my dogs are, it is their persistence and volume that gets them noticed and cared for. This is something I am always trying to apply to my daily life. It is so important to speak up and say what you are thinking whether that be in a class discussion, a roommate disagreement, or debate about rehearsal schedules. You can only be listened to if you speak.

9. How to Coexist
I’m not going to lie, I don’t always like dogs. I have even been dubbed the “dog hater” of the family. Yet, I have been forced to live with them my whole life. This has required me to learn how to coexist with them. The same can be said with individuals at school I don’t like. You can’t always just ignore someone or exile them from your lives. Sometimes you just have to coexist with them and manage.

10. The World Looks Different from Different Eye Levels
It literally does. My sister is five inches shorter than me and can’t see as high as me so I can’t imagine what my dogs see when they are so much lower to the ground. They are probably better at seeing specks of dust, I guess that’s valuable? This can translate figuratively though. Coming from different backgrounds and levels of life really changes the way you view the rest of the world and that becomes even clearer when surrounded by individuals that come from all over to meet up in one central college campus. You realize that everyone has something to teach you and everyone has seen the world in a slightly different way than you have and that is what makes people such fascinating creatures.

This is a guest blog by Johanna Klaiman a freshman at college (very far away from San Francisco and where they get snow!) and survivor of growing up in a small San Francisco house shared with 2 parents, 3 siblings, and 3 dogs.