Dissertation dogs: How the love of a good dog can get you through anything including grad school

By: Niki Fritz

Jack is Ashley's new Border Collie puppy and can best be described as both regal and silly

Jack is Ashley’s new Border Collie puppy and can best be described as both regal and silly.

The past year has been a big one for IU Telecom grad student Ashely Kraus. She defended her thesis, finished the first year of her doctoral studies, and made possibly one of the biggest decisions of her life: she decided to get a dog. As Ashley explains, after she defended her thesis and knew Bloomington was going to be home for a while, “I knew I was ready for a dog. I was ready for Jack.”

But Jack wasn’t the dog Ashley had planned for. “I had planned on getting a dog that was two to four years old. But when I saw Jack and he looked up at me with those eyes, I just knew he was the right puppy.”

Jack is a Border Collie puppy who is filled with energy and an evident sweetness. It is virtually impossible not to fall in love with him at first lick, despite his occasional over-eagerness and tendency to jump on you before you can make it fully through the front door. (Although this is something Mama Ashley is working hard to train Jack out of, through a complex system of treats and water bottle sprays.)

Upon first greet with Jack it is also clear that he is just a little bit eccentric. Jack plays by himself by throwing his bone over his head and then furiously jumping up to catch it, as if he wasn’t the one who threw it in the first place. And every time he does this little trick, Ashley laughs hysterically. It seems as if they have their own little idiosyncratic human-dog communication.

What is clear about Ashley and Jack is that sometimes there is just a right fit, a perfect dog for a lucky grad student to make winter nights, grad school and life in general a little more enjoyable.

Ashley and Jack: a match made in heaven or in reality at the shelter

Ashley and Jack: a match made in heaven or in reality at the White River Humane Society.

But beyond being a riot, Jack helps Ashley be more productive in concrete ways.

“Jack helps give me structure. I have to be home to let him out,” Ashley says. “Plus he makes it easier to work from home. Before I went a little stir crazy. Even though the conversations I have so far with Jack are on- sided, it is still nice to have him here. I don’t feel like I’m studying by myself all day.”

Of course as with any family member, things aren’t always easy with Jack.

“He was such a sweet kid; now he is kind of entering his teens and he doesn’t listen as well,” Ashley explains. There have been a few recent accidents and the case of the eaten dollar bill.

In addition to an eaten pen, Ashley came home one day to find this almost-cartoon-like eaten up dollar bill

In addition to an eaten pen, Ashley came home one day to find this almost-cartoon-like eaten up dollar bill.

But Ashley knows this is just a learning phase for Jack and that soon, hopefully before she starts dissertating, Jack will mature a bit, grow out of his teenage years and the two will hit a groove together. For Ashley, Jack is her dog but also her study buddy, the pup who makes her feel less lonely.

“A lot of work as an academic is alone. Even though we collaborate, we are working day in and day out alone,” Ashley says. “It was really lonely working alone all day. I imagine when you are dissertating it is even more lonely. I think having Jack will help me feel less alone. And it will be nice to have someone to talk to about T Swift.”

As for any final words about the role of dogs in an academic’s life, Ashley was clear the benefits of a new forever friend outweigh any eaten shoes, pens or dollar bills.

“Jack is very therapeutic to have around,” Ashley says. “He just gives you unconditional love. And everyone needs more love.”

At this point in the interview, Jack, who may have been a little sick of being ignored, pushed his sweet head under my arms and typed this message: “Fvgs  z A,” which I’m pretty sure is Jack speech for “I love you too Ashley. Now let’s play!”

Ashley isn’t the only Telecom grad student with a forever friend. Check out Mona and Alexis’ awesome dogs!

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