Friday, August 25, 2017

having a dog in medical school & residency

One of my biggest questions I've received is about having dogs while in medical school (and now residency). As we all know, having a dog is one of the best things in the whole world, but with the time consuming nature of medicine, sometimes it's a lot to try to handle at once.

My experience with having dogs is maybe slightly different because I've had both of mine since college - I got both Hans and Baer during my senior year, so we've been together for eight years now! When I started school, they were already four, so they weren't in that tough puppy phase. We had had several years together where I worked a full time job, so my dogs were used to not having me around all the time. But it really changed a lot when I started medical school.

Between long days at school and then long nights in the library during the first two years, the long clinical hours during the second part of medical, and now the hours of residency, there were really steps I had to take so that my dogs were taken care of. Having a dog (or two!) in medical school and residency is definitely possible. Here are some of the things that have really worked out well for me and my dogs over the past four years!

find other dog owners //

One of the best things I ever did for both myself and Hans & Baer at the beginning of medical school was reaching out to other dog owners. I posted on our class's facebook group asking if anyone had dogs and if they wanted to meet up for play dates. I met up with several classmates and their cute puppies, and it was such a great way to get out to meet people, and for my dogs to get out and play. Especially during anatomy (the first three months of first year), I was in lecture for 9 hours a day, so it was amazing to get outside, socialize with new people, and watch my dogs play.

Half way through first year, my best friend got a puppy. So it's definitely possible to get a puppy in school, it just takes work! For us, it was awesome because we had puppy play dates most days of the week, either at each other's houses, or at the dog park. Our dogs had such a great time playing, and we were thankful to spend a bit of time together that didn't revolve around studying. We would also go on hikes with our other girlfriends early weekend mornings, so we were being active, the dogs were getting to stretch their legs, and then we had all day to study! It really was a win for everyone.

have roommates that love dogs as much as you do //

When I found out I was moving to Pennsylvania, my first thought was ....but who do I live with? Again I got on our facebook page, asked if anyone was looking for a roommate and also loved dogs. I got the best roommate out of that - my roommate Sarah loved my dogs as much as if they were her own. She would take them out on hikes when she wanted to spend a few hours in nature,  she would cuddle them on the couch during her lunch break, would take them on potty breaks if I was at the library, and would put them to bed if I was spending the night at CR's. Having a roommate is great for lots of reasons, but if you have a pet, it's especially nice to have an extra set of hands for when you are in a crunch.

During my third and fourth year, CR and I moved in together. It's a bit different having dogs during the clinical years because you have less control over your schedule. Some rotations are more time consuming than others - on rotations like surgery, where I would leave my house at 3:45 AM and not get home until 6 PM, there was no way I could have done it without CR being there. We got really lucky that our schedules were kind of opposites - when I was on difficult rotations, he was on easier ones, and vice versa. This worked out for us, even without having any other help nearby. We only had each other, but we made it work!

My friends who have dogs all have roommates or live with their significant others. I got extremely lucky with having the people I lived with, and while it's definitely possible to have a dog without a roommate, it definitely helps having someone nearby who can help!

take them to doggy day care // 

When I was working full time and Hans & Baer were younger, my dogs went to a dog day care about once a week. It was such a great way for them to socialize and for me to not feel guilty about them being locked up in the house. Since my dogs were a bit older when I started school, and I had found great alternatives for their play times, I didn't re-enroll them in a doggy day care. But I wanted to mention this as a great option, especially for younger dogs, because my best friend took her puppy to doggy day care several times every week, and it was a wonderful way to get that puppy energy out, get the puppy the socialization it needs, and to not feel guilty if you were stuck in the library preparing for a big exam. Having a dog is definitely an expense, and while doggy day care is definitely not cheap, it's one of the best things you can do for a young playful dog!

get a dog walker // 

Now that we are in residency, our hours are even more inflexible and longer than they were in medical school. We, for the first time in the eight years I've had my dogs, had to hire real outside help. I spent a lot of time researching dog walkers in the area, and finally found a great woman to come help us with the dogs. She comes to our house every day around noon to take care of the dogs. She was walking them initially, but now that our back yard is completely fenced in, she lets them out and plays with them. She sends us texts daily of what the dogs are up to, and I just have no guilt now about being at work all day long. I love knowing that they get to play outside, that someone is giving them attention, and when I get stuck at work later than I thought, I know it's only been about 6 hours since they last went outside, not 14 hours. Again, hiring help is not cheap. But when you get a dog, you're committing to taking care of them, and that means more than just feeding them every day.

find good toys & pet supplies

This is somewhat of a no brainer, but we have found several items over the years that have made our pet owning days a bit easier. Since we have two dogs and a cat, there's a lot of water that they drink, so instead of always worrying about their one small bowl not having water in it, especially when we are running out the door at 4:30 AM, we have one of these water stations for them, and it's been such a life saver. That means they have fresh water available to them at all times, and we don't have to worry about filling it up daily. I like to keep the boys entertained, so Hans will sometimes get his breakfast in one of the dispensing toys, or they will get a Kong with peanut butter before we leave. None of this is rocket science, but just little things that have helped over the years!

Overall, my dogs are one of the best things in my life. They are such good dogs (even when they are being a bit naughty), and I just couldn't imagine my life without them.