Meet Freya, Freikku, Reijo, or more officially Fennican Kanteletar. She will be four in April and she is a Swedish Vallhund. She is my life and the one I have to thank for keeping me sane. She is also the main reason for my constant monetary problems and the reason I spend most of my time home or roaming the woods or doing agility. The life of a student/dog-owner is not all easy and simple. First, there’s the responsibility. Having a dog is nothing like having a hamster or a guinea pig running around in circles in a cage. A dog is almost like a little furry person. Having a dog means compromising. You have to wake up early, sometimes in the middle of the night and even multiple times, to take the dog out. You have to make all your plans taking the dog into account: who’s going to feed her, take her out, keep her busy, and spend time with her. I’m lucky to have my parents living close by so that I can almost always take Freya there if I have somewhere I have to be. If I didn’t, you wouldn’t probably see me much outside the lectures.
Then, there’s the money business and the living conditions. We live in Puotila; mostly due to the surrounding wilderness (excellent hunting ground for hares and pheasants, according to Freya) and my parents living close by. My flat is 29.5 square metres with a balcony and a view to a pretty little wilderness between us and Prisma. After the monthly student allowance from Kela, I’ve still got a bit under 100€ left to cover of my rent. Then there’s the internet, electricity, water, etc. Having a job is vital for my existence, because the living is so expensive and I have to eat something as well. One of the reasons I don’t live in a HOAS flat, is Freya. The only dog-friendly small flats they have for a single person are in Korso and no way in hell am I ever going to move there. Dogs are, I believe, allowed in family and friend flats, though. The Helsinki City Real Estate Department flats also allow dogs, but those are usually really hard for students to get.
Because dogs need to be taken out multiple times every day, having one helps to keep up a decent physical condition. In order to keep Freya from turning into a rampaging beast and destroying furniture, we do agility twice a week. It is an excellent way of spending quality time with the dog, giving her something to put her energy in and for me to get some exercise as well. Agility is also quite expensive, but so is every other hobby I can think of involving some sort of regular guidance or training. But it’s not just the physical condition dogs help to keep up. According to several academic researches, having a pet (a dog, a cat or even a parrot) can help to improve depression, relieve stress and cope with other mental problems. They give their owners something to do and someone else to worry about. I know I wouldn’t be this sane if I didn’t have Freya.
I’m not sure I ever could live without a dog in my life now that I’ve finally (as a result of more than ten years of whining) had one for four years. The problem with having one dog is that before you know it, you’ve started daydreaming of getting another one. Then, once you’ve started the vicious circle, you can’t get off. Or so I’m told. The woman who keeps the Fennican kennel, from where Freya is, had at one time seven or eight Swedish Vallhunds. I’ve actually already for a couple of years now been thinking of getting another one to keep Freya company and to make my flat, if possible, even more messy and my life even more difficult and to have another go in bringing up a dog.
Having a dog and being a student at the same time sure as hell isn’t easy, but it’s totally worth it. If you’re willing to take the responsibility and care for another living being, and maybe miss out on a couple of get-togethers every once in a while, I really truly recommend getting a dog. It’s good for your health, both physical as well as mental. Besides, dogs are cute and amazing and *insert a hundred more adjectives*.
Yours truly, I-just-spent-another-hundred-euros-on-agility-and-sausages-and-such-nonsense