A ruff distance relationship

Ana Virginia Guimaraes and her dog, Laika. Photo by Ana Virginia Guimaraes.

Sophomore Ana Guimaraes and her dog, Laika. Laika is hundreds of miles away from Guimaraes, living in her home country Brazil. Photo courtesy of Ana Guimaraes.

When students leave for college they have to make a major sacrifice: leaving the ones they love the most behind. They have never been away from them for this long , so most can’t picture life without them. They don’t know how those loved ones will cope with the separation. They spend every day missing them.

The loved ones, of course, are the pets that students leave behind when heading off to college.

Even through the opening weeks, students feel  isolated on campus without their pets by their side. They often miss them just as much (or even more) than their family and friends from home.

“I have two [dogs back home], both labs,” freshman photojournalism major Maggie McGuiggan said. “I think I miss them a bit more than my actual family. Mainly because I get into fights with my younger sister a lot, and my dogs are actually there for me.”

Also missing her pet is Ana Guimaraes, a sophomore biotechnology major.  Guimaraes is from Brazil and feels a greater separation from her canine than most students.

“I have a dog, Laika, and she is 6 years old,” Guimaraes said. “I love her so much, and I miss her more every day. Actually, I think that I miss her more than I miss my parents.”

While argumentative siblings can be a valid reason to miss pets, video communication can tighten those bonds with animals at home.

“Every day, I talk with my parents via Skype, and I always ask them to put her in front of the camera to talk with her,” Guimaraes said. “It is funny because when I say her name, she stares to the sides and upwards looking for me. I’m almost dying to grab her, to hug her and pet her.”

Micah McCarey and his Westie, Myles. Photo via Micah McCarey.

McCarey and his Westie, Myles. Photo via Micah McCarey.

For those on West Green, there is a way to physically get in contact with a fuzzy friend. Micah McCarey, James Hall’s residential coordinator, is one of two people allowed to have a dog on campus because of a grandfathered rule that allowed residential coordinators to have pets on campus. He lives with his Westie, Myles.

“Myles is a friendly four-and-a-half-year-old bundle of smiles,” McCarey said. “He’s a quiet, cuddly companion who loves to be around people.  Of course, he loves when people stroke his bright, white fur, and he’ll likely kiss you out of gratitude.”

McCarey allows students to set up play dates with Myles, given that Myles is one of the few dogs on West Green. Anyone wanting some fuzzy love can just contact him to set up a date.

“I’ve seen people melt as they hug him and hold him, and that’s more than enough reason for me to make him available for play dates,” McCarey said. “There have been countless instances in which Myles has worked as an unofficial therapy dog.  Sometimes, I think he should be paid.”

Both McGuiggan and Guimaraes have set up play dates with Myles, and both received love and attention from him.

“I was just sitting here in [James Hall’s] lobby, and I was thinking to myself, ‘I could really go for a play date with Myles right now,'” McGuiggan said. “[The play date] was pretty good. I really miss my dog, so it was nice to have him around.”

Although Guimareas is used to playing with a large pup, she still bonded with Myles.

“The playdate with Myles was awesome,” Guimaraes said. “He is very strong, and he was always trying to pull me to wherever he wanted to go. It was so funny. Everybody stopped us and said, ‘Oh, he is so cute.'”

There will be a time when students must leave Athens. While they love the friendships they have in this town, home has something that Athens cannot fully replace. Most students will rush toward their family members with four legs before the ones with two. Don’t worry; you’re not alone.

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