I've stated before that I have two loves: food and Harry Potter. But there's always room for more love, and that's where dogs come in—and most importantly, my dog. She's not only been a best friend for the past 11 years, but I really believe she's helped me maintain my cool throughout the ups and downs in college. 

Meet Poppy

Li Stalder

In 2005, my family adopted Poppy from a Riverside County animal shelter when she was just about a year and a half. We came up with her name at a Jack in the Box (fun fact), and the rest is history. 

After we made the move from California to Florida, she saw the last of my awkward middle school years, as I was trying to fit in at a new school. Then the next four years of high school went by in such a blur that before I knew it, it was time for me to go off to college. 

First Time Being Away From Home

Li Stalder

Leaving Tampa to attend school up north in Gainesville was a huge transition for me. Up until that point, I don't remember being away from home for extended amounts of time other than one-week field trips to a 6th grade camp or an 8th grade trip to Washington D.C. The first month was the most difficult: it was hard finding a niche of friends and I cried in the shower a lot. 

While of course I missed my mom, dad and sisters, I also greatly missed Poppy. It was the little things, like her greeting me at the door after a long day. I teased my family that she was the only reason why I would come visit them.  

How She Has Helped Me Survive College

Li Stalder

At the end of my freshman year, my family was planning to move for various reasons. They looked at smaller towns around Gainesville and Tampa (they didn't want to invade my space), but I told them, "Hey, why not just move to Gainesville?" So, they did.

Right now, I live at home and get to see my dog every day (oh, and my family, too). Whenever I have a stressful day, Poppy's presence can calm me down by simply sitting next to me while I do my classwork. She's like my own stress ball. I can just walk over and hug her. Need a break? We'll go on a walk around the neighborhood. 

I'm fortunate that my family moved up here. (And yes, I still have a social life.) There's many days throughout the week when I leave the house at 8:30am and don't come back until 9pm. So, seeing my dog always puts a smile on my face at the end of each day.