SEMESTER SERIES: CHARLENE THOMAS – You and Your Metaphorical Dog

The third major question I asked myself after determining that I would be attending Emory University in the fall, and figuring out where I was going to live, was whether or not I should get a dog the second I moved in.

I’m one of those people who grew up with my own dog, proceeded to live my young adult life loving other people’s dogs after mine passed, and who continues to say “awww” and “oh my God” at just about every canine sighting ever. The “Adopt Me” commercials with the sad Sarah McLachlan music are basically targeted directly at me (which I can say now that I’m on my third marketing class at Emory.)

The reality of my situation was that I was moving from Washington, DC, down to Atlanta all by myself. I’d be staying in a one bedroom without a roommate, and I’d be going from a high-rise with a doorman, to more of a community-type development with outdoor access for every apartment. I would be living on the first floor, when I had already gotten used to living up in the air. And I’d also need to start driving places again, after years of not even keeping a car in the city.

All of these truths quickly changed my third major question from, “if I should get to a dog” to, “where and how can I immediately get a dog the second I get to Atlanta?”

My fourth day after moving in – before orientation or Twin Lakes or completely unpacking – I adopted my adorable mixed-breed puppy from a local pet rescue and welcomed him into my humble abode. He was seven months old at the time, just about full grown at approximately 16 pounds, and was relatively potty trained. (Disclaimer: any rescue dog is “relatively” potty trained as long as he sometimes coincidentally pees outside when you take him out for walks, or generally likes to crap in the same area of your house every time he doesn’t go outside because *predictability* is so much nicer than *searching for the smell*.) I named him Langston and our first evening together he slept all the way through the night, on the floor next to my bed. It was wonderful, and has probably set insanely unrealistically high hopes for my eventual first night with my eventual first born.

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About a week into getting Langston, orientation started, and my new classmates began to learn of the fact that I had indeed acquired puppy.

People demanded pictures, stories, and explanations. They asked me his name and then they’d ask it again when they were pretty sure I’d just said Langston, as in Langston Hughes, but needed to be positive. The general consensus amongst just about everyone I told – despite immediately falling in love with him because how do you just not conceptually fall in love with a rescued, semi-potty-trained puppy named Langston? – was that I was completely freaking nuts.

They (my classmates) would say: “Don’t you know we just signed away our souls for a semester in exchange for this degree? Don’t you know this is about to be the most intense, time-consuming, emotional roller coaster of an experience you have ever had, and you just got a semi-potty-trained puppy named Langston?”

And then, the part they couldn’t say because we’d known each other for seven minutes and social norms are a thing: are you crazy? I would like to officially say now, for the record, that I think this might have been the sanest thing I’ve ever done.

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Now, I’m not saying that you should find a puppy the second you formally accept your offer to attend Emory, and head to Atlanta together to be best friends and companions for life. There have been multiple studies on people who own dogs living longer, or the kinds of therapeutic things dogs can do for your soul. But if you don’t even like dogs, I don’t think your MBA experience is going to suddenly become that much more amazing if you opt to get a dog because science says it may not be all bad. It will be bad – it will be probably the worst thing ever – if you get a dog and do not even really want a dog. But I would like to recommend that you “get a dog” in a metaphorical sense. Get a ________. (Fill in the blank.)

Your metaphorical dog doesn’t need to be an animal – it doesn’t even need to be alive – but it needs to be something that forces you to maintain a life (or, God forbid, even an actual schedule??) outside of school. It needs to be something that requires your attention, something that you can be focused on, or happy about, and sometimes even extremely stressed out about, that has nothing to do with internship searches or demand curves. I say this because Langston’s existence in my life has fully forced me to only be a neurotic MBA student for a clearly allotted amount of time per day. I can’t just stay at school until midnight (and, P.S., you also should not be doing this even if your schedule technically enables it) and I can’t just dedicate weekends to the library, because I have Langston to take care of. I can’t go home in the evenings and stare at a book and not look up until the birds start singing outside and my stomach starts wondering if we can eat, because I have this puppy who needs me to maintain normal human behavior. He needs me to stop reading and walk him. He needs me to stop studying and play with him. He needs me to stop stressing because – I promise you – animals can feel it when you’re slipping into Crazy Town. And in the midst of accepting all the things that Langston needs me for, I’ve come to also accept that I’ve really needed him, too. I have needed him to be the reason why weekend library binges and all-night study challenges weren’t the answer. So get something like Langston. Maybe not a Langston per se, but something that prevents you from falling fully victim to the “MBA thing;” something that can be your metaphorical dog.

Because I’m sure you’re wondering (you’re probably not, but I’ve become one of those moms who can’t help but reference her dog in casual conversation, so bear with me), Langston crossed the threshold from semi-potty-trained to fully-potty-trained months ago. He knows exactly what he is and is not allowed to do; even things he’s only allowed to do at certain times, like play with that toy that squeaks. Langston and I even road tripped back to DC together for winter break! And with that, I’d like to say, if you do choose to make your metaphorical dog an actual dog, you’re not crazy.

Well, at least, I won’t think you are.