By Nikki Ogle

We have all been there. You bombed an exam and feel like the worst college student in history. You spent your morning in a giant lecture hall full of unfamiliar faces, feeling all alone. You wonder if you are really cut out for this thing called college.

Imagine, your whole day changes when you walk in the door of your apartment or duplex. A wagging tail and sloppy kisses or face rubs and the sound of purring can turn it all around.

Having a pet in college was one of the best decisions I have ever made. My dog Cooper is 80 pounds of pure energy, joy and companionship. Like a lot of my peers, I moved away from home for college. My dog makes my rental house a home. Some days, I have been so homesick I have not felt like getting out of bed. Guess what? Even when I do not feel like going outside, Cooper sure does.

My dog keeps me company and keeps me active, but he also keeps me spending money. Having a pet in college can provide comfort but can also put a dent in your wallet.

When I got Cooper three years ago, I spend a lot of money. Not only did I have to pay for him, but also for the things I needed to take care of him. We needed food and water bowls, a collar, a leash, toys, a bed, brushes, potty pads, carpet cleaner, treats, a kennel- just to name a few. Those were mostly first-time purchases that I only needed to replace when they wore out or Cooper got too big for them. Let’s be honest, though, I could not keep myself from buying an unnecessary amount of toys.

With any pet, there are also recurring costs. All dogs are different, but the one thing they have in common is they need something to eat. A bag of Cooper’s food costs nearly $55. I buy it roughly every month and a half. Eight bags of food per year adds up to $440. That is even more than the $400.31 the ASPCA predicts for annual spending on food for a large dog.

Recurring costs for a pet like food can be included in a budget. I budget for Cooper just like I do for myself. If I know I will need to buy a bag of food soon, I try to cook at home more than I go out to eat, knowing I need to save about $55 so he can eat, too.

His food is something I can prepare for, but other costs are unpredictable.

The ASPCA predicts $260 per year for large dog medical costs. Cooper gets annual shots that cost about $50. I also buy him flea and tick medicine for the summer months. That costs about $45. On annual, regular vet bills, I spend significantly less than the ASPCA’s predictions.

However, Cooper has been sick a few times since we moved to college. Surprise veterinarian bills can be pricey. Not only did I have to pay for whatever medicine they prescribed to make my dog feel better, but I also had to pay just to see the vet. In other words, it cost $60 just to have someone look at my dog and tell me what was wrong with him.

Emergencies can happen when you least expect them. It is important to keep a savings account. Without an emergency fund, you might have to dip into your rent money. I have been in the position where I had to call my parents in tears, scared for my dog’s health and unsure how I was going to afford to stay in my house that month. After just one of those experiences, I realized how important an emergency savings account can be, especially when you have a pet.

Pets can be expensive. It is important to put their needs in your budget and to keep an emergency savings account for them, too. I can tell you, though, with a big dog snuggling on my lap, pets are worth way more than they cost.

Nikki Ogle is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism at the University of Missouri.