For freshman Elise Chen, home is only a phone call away. It’s keeping in touch with Sammy, her collie-lab mix, that’s the problem.
“I can talk to my dog on the phone, but I don’t get anything out of it,” Chen said.
Chen is not the only student who misses her pet, an integral part of many families.
According to membership in Facebook groups dedicated to the topic, at least 44,845 others are in the same boat.
There are at least six groups dedicated to missing one’s pet on the social networking site; the largest, “I love college, but I miss my dog,” stands at 31,056 members.
The group’s wall is full of declarations of love for dogs at home, often accompanied by pictures and funny stories in the photo and discussion board sections.
Chen, one of the group’s newest members, said she joined when she realized the forum was a literal representation of missing her dog. In some respects, Chen said, she actually misses her dog more than she misses her parents.
“My dog never says ‘Go to bed,’ or ‘You have to be in by two,’ ” she said. “My dog just says, ‘I’m happy to see you, even if it’s 2:30 in the morning.’ “
GW’s Facebook network has its own group for pet lovers: “I Miss My Dog.” Its 89 members frequently post pictures of their “four- and sometimes three-legged friends at home,” as the group’s description states.
The group’s active members use it as a way to further express themselves on Facebook and to cope with missing their animals back home.
Like Chen, junior Jared Stone said he did not realize how much his dogs were a part of his life until he came to college.
“In the past, I had always been at home and always been around my dogs,” Stone said. “I was used to having them nearby and petting them while watching TV. So in college, their absence hit me and I found the group on Facebook an accurate representation of how I was feeling.”
Although a freshman like Chen is still adjusting to college life away from pets, Stone has learned that students must learn to deal with missing their pets.
“Friends fill the gap so much, but can only go so far,” he said. “I’ve overcome it, but it’s still nothing you can really get over.”
Many students, including law student and “I Miss My Dog” member Rebecca Rodgers, hope to eventually have dogs of their own, but they know that college is not conducive to pet ownership.
“My studio is no place for a dog and definitely not with a crazy law school schedule,” Rodgers said.
When Rodgers misses her Australian shepherd, Missy, she turns to the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube.
“I tend to watch (my) particular breed of dog, Australian shepherds,” Rodgers said. “Seeing other people’s dogs makes me miss mine a little less.”
Chen also uses technology to cope, though in a more personal manner.
“I video chat with my dog,” she said.
Although she does not plan on getting a dog on campus any time soon, she jokes about adopting a “hallway dog” for Lafayette, where she lives this year.
The Internet and hopes for the future, though good coping aids, can only help those missing their pets to an extent.
Rodgers said, “Sometimes I look over my shoulder and expect a dog to follow me around.”