I’m a cat person (bite me, dog lovers, dogs). From a young age, my odd smell and opposable thumbs have drawn cats to me like I was some sort of creamy, mouse-shaped magnet. Fortunately, this partnership has worked out well for both cats and myself: I feed them, house them and give them treats; in exchange they are fuzzy and nice to hold.
As every cat lover knows, any feline’s favorite place to nap is on a human face. No matter who you are and how inappropriate it is, a cat loves nothing more that to get as close to your mug as it can. I used to see this as a rare blemish on the otherwise pristine slate of kitty psychology. The time was that I would wake in the night with cats on my face, become upset, and throw them off. It seemed only natural.
Then college came. I packed up my things, gave my cats one last squeeze, and headed off to Yale. The first few weeks went by smoothly, and I was remarkably free of homesickness. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad, I thought. Maybe my pets and I could get by without each other.
What a fool I was.
At the end of my third week here, I was writing about a talk for the News. After the speaker was finished, I interviewed a few students, talked to a professor on my way out the door, and walked down the hall. As I rounded the corner, I came upon something that froze me in my tracks: a giant, fuzzy, black and white dog.
What a dog was doing in the hallway of the Whitney Humanities Center I don’t know. But that didn’t matter. For a moment, my mind was wholly cleared. Thoughts about classes and the night’s adventures vanished from my mind. For a good three or four seconds, all I could think about was this wonderful, cuddly, slobbery thing before me and how badly I wanted to hug it.
My composure returned just as the dog’s owner came into view down the hall. Embarrassed, I rushed to hold the door on his way out. Secretly, however, I know that I wasn’t holding the door for him. It was totally for his pet, all the way.
Keeping animals has considerable benefits, benefits of which Yalies (at least on-campus ones) are sorely deprived. Pets comfort the sick or elderly, and they can detect storms and earthquakes; domesticated goats can even mow your lawn. Many don’t even realize how big a role the soft and fuzzy play in your life until you leave home for the first time. It’s little wonder that an Ohio State University study found that nearly a quarter of college students said that a pet helped them through difficult times.
The need for domesticated mammalian relief is especially prevalent at Yale, where the need for perfection weighs more heavily than almost anywhere else. On our campus, the power of pets is obvious. In March, the school of law implemented a program that allowed students to “check out” a puppy for half-hour de-stressing sessions. Handsome Dan and Dean Genoni’s Ming T are immensely popular. Whenever anyone walks something near Old Campus, they can expect to be delayed by half an hour as our university’s students swarm them with requests to hold and pet.
When I got back to my sprawling, luxuriously appointed L-Dub room after my encounter with the dog, I immediately went to my bedroom and took out a picture I brought along from home. It shows my parents on the couch. Our cat, Lola, is desperately trying to make her way onto my dad’s face. Even though I was alone on a Friday night and far from home, seeing my cat still managed to cheer me up.
I guess what I’m saying is this: college can be lonely. Heck, life can be lonely. But if you ever feel down in the dumps, go out and find someone walking his dog, or pay a local pet store a visit.
Oh, and while I’m at it: for all the times that you woke me up at night with your bellies in my mouth, and for all the times that I spitefully punted you out of my bedroom, I’m sorry. This is for you, you stupid cats. I miss you.
Robert Peck is a freshman in Berkeley College.