University of Mississippi students have been crucial in the development of a dog-friendly environment in Oxford.
Oxford is a community continually influenced by the demands of the college students while retaining its unique small-town charm. A trend currently dominating the UM student population is dog ownership.
According to USA Today, researchers at Ohio State University report that students generally become dog owners to help reduce school-related stress and to feel less lonely.
The responsibilities of college-level course loads can have a negative impact on students, causing some to battle depression and obesity. Dogs can be a healthy outlet to divert stress and incorporate a healthy lifestyle.
Emily Romski, a sophomore from New York, said she appreciates the company of her pet.
“The best part about having a dog is the company,” she said. “You never have to be alone, and they love you no matter what.”
Like many other students, Romski enjoys taking her dog, Olly, to outdoor facilities, such as Lamar Park and Whirlpool Trails.
Another student, Parker Caracci, also makes sure to get active with his dog, Chief.
“Since he’s a puppy and he’s not fully vaccinated, I can’t take him anywhere yet,” Caracci said. “But we do walk and run on Belk Road.”
Oxford has a couple restaurants that welcome dogs and their owners. Rooster’s Blues House and Frank & Marlee’s are common places on the Square student dog owners frequent.
“Surprisingly, a lot more restaurants allow dogs than you would think,” Romski said. “That being said, most stores do not, but it would be nice, especially those on the Square.”
Many student dog owners would appreciate more dog-friendly establishments. Biloxi native Logan Cooper wishes he could bring his dog, Lily, on more outings, instead of leaving her at home.
“I wish more places like movie theaters and malls allowed dogs inside since I hate leaving my dog at home alone,” said Cooper.
Carraci wishes more Oxford establishments had green areas where dogs could play with their owners nearby.
“A dog-friendly bar with an area outside for them to run around with a balcony to watch them from, and to be able to bring them inside as well,” said Caracci, describing her dog-friendly vision.
With the rising trend of dog owners in the area, Oxford businesses have responded with reasonable enthusiasm. While a couple of restaurants welcome dogs, stores are just now entertaining the idea of gaining furry new customers.
Green Canyon Outfitters, a new store on the Square, makes it a priority to stock locally-sourced dog treats and trendy dog necessities for this rising niche consumer base. They stock items like flexible dog bowls and running leashes, perfect for students on the go.
Although owning a dog can be a beneficial aspect of student’s life at college, they are also an additional responsibility. Before adopting a new pet, a student should analyze his or her priorities and financial flexibility. Dogs can be particularly expensive, especially on a student budget.
Students must consider the living requirements at their apartments and dorms, financing dog food, vaccinations, and veterinarian appointments, and the flexibility of their schedule.
Caracci agrees that making time for his pal, Chief, is an important aspect of owning a dog.
“The hardest part about having a dog is trying to study or do homework when he wants to go outside and play,” said Caracci. “He won’t leave me alone until we do.”
Owning a dog requires a daily time commitment that must be met with enthusiasm for the advantage of both the dog’s health and the owner’s. Many student dog owners are aware of this responsibility, yet are still adamantly affectionate of their canine pals and recommend their companionship.
“It depends on if you are busy a lot and don’t have time to give them the attention they need, then I would not recommend it,” says Romksi. “It is also very hard managing your time, but I love having a dog, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. If you think you can handle the responsibility, it is worth it.”