Video: Don’t bite off more than you can chew when it comes to pet ownership

Nikki Calderon smiling with her dog, Ina. Photo by Emma McCabe

Emma McCabe
Oxford Stories

Many college students adopt or buy dogs. While many adoptions work out, some students are unprepared for the work it takes to raise an animal.

Nikki Calderon, 20, of Atlanta, recently adopted a dog. Ina, a Belgian Malinois, is 10 weeks old. She paid for the puppy herself and immediately began training her.

Ina weighed about 12 pounds when Calderon first bought her and now, at 10 months, she weighs about 60 pounds. Owners have to learn how to increase their dog food when raising them for proper growth, much like a child.

“It was really hard learning how to raise a dog like this,” Calderon said. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but luckily my mom helped me in the beginning. I would never change getting Ina, though, as hard as it is.”

Belgian Malinois are often raised to become police dogs. They are very smart, but aggressive by nature. Ina sometimes has problems interacting with other dogs. Calderon takes her to a  trainer. She has bought many books and watched instructional videos to become the best dog owner possible.

Nikki Calderon training her 10-month-old dog, Ina, in her backyard. Photo by Emma McCabe says owning a dog can cost up to $2,000 a year, and many dogs live up to 12 years. Many students adopt a dog before realizing the effort required and bring the dog back to shelters after a short period of time.

Gigi Smith, an Ole Miss sophomore, met Calderon last year in the dorms. “Adopting a dog in college is a big deal,” Smith said. “A lot of students can’t handle it, but Nikki has always been really serious and dedicated to taking care of Ina, so it wasn’t ever a problem for her.”

Nikki has to wake up at 7 a.m. each day with Ina. She has to feed her special food for growth – wet and dry food. Dogs of the Belgian Malinois breed have lots of energy and need much attention. At the very least, Calderon throws the ball with Ina three times day. If she can, she walks her as much as possible.

Amie Calderon, Nikki’s mom, said her daughter is very responsible. “We made sure she knew what she was going to have to do when she told us she wanted to get Ina,” she said. “College students need to know they are the ones responsible for taking care of these animals.”

What Nikki Calderon didn’t realize was how much attention her dog would need. She loves Ina and has adjusted well, but some students have a hard time balancing school and a dog.

Calderon recommends researching what it takes to raise a dog before students adopt. Because so many shelters in college towns see students abandon dogs, they have strict adoption policies.

“At the end of the day, having a dog in college is amazing,” Calderon said. “But you really shouldn’t go out and get one if you won’t be able to take proper care of it.”

Nikki Calderon, an Ole Miss sophomore, and her dog, Ina, in their home. Photo by Emma McCabe.


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