I’ve spent three years as a stress-relief puppy for college students. Here’s my advice:

People love to glorify my job, to make it into this big glamorous thing that it really isn’t. Sure, at first the gig is exhilarating. Who doesn’t love to be surrounded by adoring fans in the street? Getting your picture taken a hundred times, college girls crying out when they see you across the street, rushing over to hug you and pet you and coo in your ear. Being a collegiate stress-relief doggo has its benefits — nobody’s trying to deny that. But, like any job, it takes its toll.

The first thing I’d say about being in stress-relief is that your career is a bit of a ticking time bomb. Best case scenario, depending on your breed, you’re looking at between fourteen to eighteen dog years. Puppy-cuteness is not a good look once you hit twenty-five — trust me, I’ve seen way too many doggos try and fail. You’ve gotta go into this industry knowing that eventually you’ll end up pivoting to something else. Usually the Seeing Eye biz — that’s where all the dog treats are these days.

Most common advice I give about making it in stress-relief is do not make friends on the job. I’ve seen far too many puppers show up to gigs, especially college gigs, and spend the whole two-hour shift playing with the other doggos! Seriously! I can’t repeat this enough — you are not getting paid to network. Your job is to relieve the stress of 18 to 23 year-old students who are crumbling under the stress of being in college.

These young men and women (mostly women) are working so hard, you’ve gotta understand that, and most of them don’t even know for what, exactly. The kids you’re serving are suffering, okay? They’re as privileged as they are existentially lost, and that’s a tough life to live. The least you can do while you’re on the job is give them all of the attention you can muster as they walk by.

You’re dealing with absolute trainwrecks of irrational ambition and sexual frustration, alright? If you get distracted by your coworkers or take a nap or constantly have to piss while you’re on the clock, you might be the single doggo that finally convinces a 19-year-old sophomore from Long Island that her ex was right when he said That Thing.

Literally anything can push these kids into an emotional tailspin, so as long as you’re on campus, you’ve gotta keep spinning around your own tail. Haha! But no, seriously. They love it when you chase your little tail around.

I guess that brings me to my last point: when things get tough, remember all the good you’re doing for the world. There’s a lot of ego in our industry. Puppers get big headed fast — literally their heads grow quicker than their bodies — but also in figurative terms, it’s easy to get a big head when strangers shower you with love every day.

But when you get brought out for a job, you’ve gotta remember that you’re there for a reason. Some animals are good for pulling stuff around, others are good for eating, and others are good for absolutely nothing (cats). But mother nature made you to be good for collegiate stress-relief. And that’s a blessing.

Look, if there’s any secret to finding joy in the face of life’s many challenges, it’s striving for the greater good of your purpose. No matter what career you end up going into, you’ve gotta remember that.

Also I know you’re gonna want to, but never eat your own shit.

cute-dog
Lacie is a veteran of the collegiate stress-relief industry, and has visited over twenty private universities, including Columbia, Vassar and Colgate. She’s now retired, and writes a weekly column for the Huffington Post.

(Originally posted on my humor writing blog, lcdgumbo.wordpress.com)

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