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Lovin’ the Pug Life: The Perks of Having a Dog During Residency

Truth be told — I have always been a cat person. Well, I guess I was a cat person. I grew up with a ferocious feral tabby cat named Petesy that my family decided to take in while I was in high school. To say that Petesy was part of the family would be an understatement. He had his own chair at the dinner table, ate table food off his own plate, and had an uncanny ability to know when you were eating ice cream (and to get a substantial portion of it for himself). He was also a sneaky devil.  When my girlfriend (now wife) came to visit my parent’s house for the first time, she nearly fell for his trick where he would lay on his back, luring you to come pet his stomach — only to unleash his claws on your unsuspecting arm. When Petesy died of a salivary gland tumor in 2015 it broke my heart. I couldn’t imagine ever having another pet.

My wife, on the other hand, is a dog person. Actually, scratch that — she is a pug person. There is no other animal that could top her love of those small, snoring, food-loving monsters. During her first year of medical school, she had adopted a pug-boxer mix whom she appropriately named Harvey. And while he ultimately needed to live with her parents during her four years of medical school and during her intern year, it was ultimately decided that he needed to move with us to the dog capital of the world — Denver.

The first week was rough. No, the first week was unbearable. I had never really taken care of a dog before, let alone while living the busy schedule that my wife and I had. Between the accidents in the house, being forced to wake up even earlier to take him on walks, and fighting to keep him out of our bed — I felt like we had made a huge mistake. But, we agreed to give it a shot for at least one month before sending him back to her parents.

Somewhere along the way, Harvey won me over. No matter how poorly my day has gone, I can always count on Harvey to be waiting for me at the door, tail wagging, and eager to play. On days when I’m too tired to exercise, I can still muster up the energy to take my Big Pig out for his favorite part of the day: our nightly 2 mile walk. He keeps me in shape, while I am convinced that we have raised the world’s fittest pug. I mean, how many other pugs go on 5-6 mile hikes at elevation?  With my wife and I often on opposite schedules, he has come to provide a constant companion. He has developed a respectable ability to sleep 8 hours at night when I’m home and then weasel his way into bed with my wife when she gets home. My wife likes to joke that he thinks that I am his best friend, but he is also one of mine.

That’s not to say that having a pet isn’t hard. It’s hard for people with regular schedules and even more difficult for medical students and resident physicians. But if you can make the time and are willing to put in the work, I can promise you that it is worth it. After all, we have all seen the therapy animals in the hospital and have read the studies showing the benefits of animals for patients. Personally, I believe that the same benefits extend to the students and residents taking care of them. At the end of the day, Harvey keeps me happy, healthy, excited, and loved. And while I originally thought I couldn’t live with him — today, I couldn’t imagine living without him.