benefits of pets

The benefits of dog ownership in dental school

After graduating from college, many of us ventured off once more to go to dental school. We packed up our lives in a U-Haul, and if you were like me, your parents came along, too, offering a final goodbye hug and kiss. However, there was a certain kiss that I couldn’t bring with me to Florida: that of a four-legged friend.

It only took one night’s sleep in my new apartment to realize that I could not fathom living without the jingling of a collar or the tapping of paws. It may seem like the academic and social demands of dental school could limit my time and energy for another responsibility, but I felt that by adopting a dog and going through this journey with a furry, slobbery, lovable companion, I would be successful. Two years later, I’m settling into my D3 year, and I wouldn’t trade my memories with Chase for anything in this world.

Chase is an adopted Greyhound. Florida is one of the few states keeping the sport of Greyhound racing alive. Wagering on purebred Greyhounds ensures that people in the industry will train these dogs from the time they are puppies until they retire around two or three years old. Once the dogs are finished with their racing careers, they no longer have a home. They are put up for adoption, and many spend the remainder of their lives at a shelter, with many more being euthanized when the shelter becomes too crowded.

Upon learning this and reading about the personalities and quirks of the breed, I found that Greyhounds are known for their napping and minimal exercise demands and upkeep. Although they are fairly large, Greyhounds are gentle giants. Because of these qualities, Chase seamlessly fit into my daily routine, also improving my quality of life. Owning a dog during dental school also is beneficial for my physical, emotional and mental well-being. Here’s how.

1. My dog brings a smile to my face.

Every day I come home from school to a jubilant dog, exuding so much love that the tiniest adversity I faced at school that day becomes obsolete. Who can complain about a sub-par exam grade when a 105-lb Greyhound is waiting to hug and kiss you at the door?

2. He helps me take breaks from studying.

Regardless of how many more chapters of biochemistry I have left to read, it is my responsibility to feed Chase, give him his nightly exercise and take him out. Chase brings me up for air and helps me enjoy the outdoors when I am buried under mountains of textbooks.

3. My dog is my co-pilot.

Chase loves to ride in the car, and he makes the best co-pilot when I am running errands. Whether we’re going to the post office or cruising through the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru, I can count on seeing that smiling face and tongue hanging out the back window. Chase gives me a reason to adventure to parks and beaches with my classmates, some of whom also have dogs. These four-legged friends also make wonderful spectators for pick-up kickball games and are often welcomed at most outdoor restaurants.

4. He helps me cook.

My least favorite part of the day is cooking dinner. I find it to be the most inefficient and least exciting way to spend an evening, so I tend to make everything ahead of time and freeze it to help keep it fresh. This also gives me more time to feed Chase in the evening. He is an adorable garbage disposal, and I am thankful to have my 105-lb mouth to eat my leftovers when necessary!

5. My dog is my companion.

Did I mention unconditional love? Every night, Chase hops into bed with me and licks my arm until I fall asleep. He provides warmth and likes to cuddle on those “chilly” Florida nights. I have a sense of protection with him. After a day of lectures and treating patients, snuggling with someone you love is the best way to wind down the night. Unfortunately, he doesn’t make an ideal alarm clock by any means: He sleeps until I wake him!

With all of these perks comes the responsibilities of being a dog owner. It is not uncommon for me to head home during my lunch break to walk Chase since it is unfair to leave him alone for 10 hours while I’m in clinic. I also allocate funds for veterinary costs, food, flea and tick medication, treats and toys. Chase also needs physical upkeep, and I have a schedule for when I must bathe him, trim his nails, brush his coat and brush his teeth — with poultry-flavored toothpaste, no less!

Is adopting a dog the right move for you? I have invested in Chase and everything that comes with owning a dog, but my return on that investment has been astronomical. Chase is more than a dog — he is my sunshine, my co-pilot, my adventurer, my guide, my companion and my best friend. Perhaps there is a canine out there waiting for you to welcome them into your heart and home, and it doesn’t have to be impossible while you’re in dental school.

~ Lauren Cuculino, LECOM ‘21

Lauren Cuculino

Lauren Cuculino is a third-year dental student at LECOM School of Dental Medicine. She currently serves as the ASDA representative for the class of 2021 and president of the Endodontics Club. In the past, she has chaired various committees in her chapter, including the Predental and Dinner & Dentistry Committees.

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  1. Chelsea Fosse says:

    So true! Canine family members provide the exact love and perspective that we need throughout dental school. Thank you for sharing your and Chase’s story! And for anyone considering a canine companion — adopt, don’t shop! 🙂

    1. Lauren Cuculino says:

      Thank you Chelsea! I totally agree, there are too many homeless dogs out there to shop! I hope you’re enjoying the love of a canine family member yourself!

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