The value of a dog

Students balance school and caring for man's best friend.

Student dog owners are not common at Syracuse University, largely due to the added time and expense for typical college students, but the students who do have dogs say having a canine companion is one of the greatest feelings.

And as far as being “typical” college students, Brit Potter and James Tracey are far from it. Potter, a business management junior, and Tracey, a communications and rhetorical studies junior, are busy to say the least. Potter is on the Syracuse University men’s crew team and Tracey is in the SU Air Force ROTC program.

Photo: Elizabeth Reyes
Foster poses for the camera as he takes a walk with his owner.

They live in a big house on Euclid Avenue with four other guys. Both Potter and Tracey have a passion for dogs, which is what propelled them to purchase one this year. For Tracey, his dog craze began in his freshman year when he would spend hours on the Internet searching for various dog breeds and breeders. He had dogs when he was younger, he said, but his family hadn’t owned one since he was in high school.

“It got to the point this year where I was like, ‘Why not? We have a house,’” Tracey said. “The other guys in the house were fine with it so I spent a month and a half trying to find the right breeder.”

Tracey said he was lucky to find a local breeder and a week before Thanksgiving break he decided on a Vizsla, a type of Hungarian sporting dog that originates from the Pointer retriever breed. Tracey named him Trigger.

Potter, on the other hand, said he grew up with dogs and wanted one to go hunting, one of his favorite pastimes. Potter found an English Pointer breeder in Central Pennsylvania and got his dog the week after Thanksgiving break.

“I didn't want to get the same dog as James,” Potter said. “The breeder had a litter due in two weeks, so I picked him up after Thanksgiving break.”

Potter named him Foster, and since the day he brought him to Syracuse, Foster and Trigger have been best friends.

Tracey said it’s been a challenge training Trigger, but an enjoyable one. The first three or four months are hard because you have to teach them basic commands, develop a schedule and make sure they are getting enough exercise, he said. But, he’s enjoyed taking on such a big responsibility.

“Chores like taking out the trash teaches you responsibility, but it’s like having a kid,” Tracey said, while scolding Trigger for removing a piece of paper from the trash. “They are so active; they could run around for four hours.”

Potter said he’s handled the responsibility well, and the first six months are imperative to making sure Foster is well trained.

“Nothing’s worse than a dog who doesn't listen or doesn't walk on a leash right,” Potter said. “They’re always going to be stubborn and go through phases where they don't listen and test your patience.”

Good planning has been the key for Potter and Tracey’s lives this year, with balancing their dogs, school, crew and ROTC.

“It’s not hard, you just have to plan and organize stuff,” Tracey said. “Usually I wake up and take him for a walk, make sure he does his business. Dogs are good because you can get them on a routine.”

Both Potter and Tracey said it was a large initial expense but it is worth it. Tracey said Trigger was $850 and he spent around $300 for the first trip to the vet to get all of his shots. But after that, he said, dogs are relatively inexpensive to take care of.

“I spent approximately $100 on food, toys and a crate,” Tracey said. “And $100 for food every couple months, which isn’t bad.”

Rory Murphy, an environmental biology senior at SUNY-ESF, owns a pit ball named Reggae. Reggae is almost four years old and Murphy rescued him from the pound a year and a half ago.

Murphy said Reggae is “pretty well-trained,” and can obey commands with just visual cues instead of spoken commands. He also said he loves the companionship, and the expense of having a dog hasn’t been bad at all since he rescued him.

“I work at Pita Pit so it helps with the cost,” Murphy said. “And he’s got short hair, so he doesn't need much grooming.”

As much work as a dog is for Potter, Tracey and Murphy, they all stressed that the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

“It’s awesome because you could be having the worst day in school and then they’re so happy to see you that you just forget about it,” Tracey said. “You’re never bored, always having someone there. It’s like a second shadow.”

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