Dear Roadie, My College-Bound Daughter Is Upset About Leaving Our Senior Dog Behind. What Can I Do?

Teen girl with her arm wrapped around her dog. She's smiling into the camera, and the dog is looking off in the distance.

Dear Roadie, My College-Bound Daughter Is Upset About Leaving Our Senior Dog Behind. What Can I Do?

Published May 17, 2024

Teen girl with her arm wrapped around her dog. She's smiling into the camera, and the dog is looking off in the distance.

Dear Roadie,

My daughter is getting ready to go away to college and she’s extremely upset about leaving our senior dog behind. She’ll be a plane ride away. What can I do to make it better, so she doesn’t start college so melancholy and stressed?
— This Is Ruff

Dear “This Is Ruff,” 

I’m a dog mom, so I completely understand how devastating this can be, especially for a teen who may have little experience with loss. There’s nothing we can do to prevent the inevitable, but there are ways we can strengthen the bond between your daughter and your dog during the time they have left together, and perhaps even beyond.

Start by taking as many photos of them together as possible, both candid and posed, so that there’s an overabundance of images when she goes away to college. There’s so much you can do with photos to help bridge the gap when she misses her pooch. For example, a digital frame that replays photos and videos makes the perfect going-away gift, as does a mug, pillow, or blanket emblazoned with her doggy’s face on it.  

Remind her that thanks to FaceTime, she can make video calls anytime she needs to get a look at her furry friend — whether that’s every day or even twice a day. Sure, it won’t be the same, but at least she can set her eyes on her sweet companion and be reminded of all the reasons she loves her pooch so much.

Volunteering with other dogs may help fill the void, too, at least a little bit, so perhaps that’s something for her to consider. It sounds like she’s used to having animals in her life, and this may be a way to keep that warm interaction alive. Again, it’s not the same as walking and playing with the dog she grew up with, but it may distract her and make her feel at least a little bit better.

“Open When” cards might also help. Many parents write these for their children and attach them to moments they’re likely to experience during their first time away from home. Some examples include “Open When You Miss Mom’s Meatballs” or “Open When You’re Missing Fido.” The idea is to write a sweet message for your daughter that will soften the blow when she suddenly finds herself feeling homesick. Some parents include a small amount of cash or a gift card to bump up their spirits even more. Sometimes a chai latte with oat milk is the perfect pick-me-up.

Finally, keep in mind that she’s not the only one who’s going to be missing somebody. The dog will likely miss her, too. Consider having your daughter leave a shirt or pillow with her scent behind for the dog to sniff and remember her by. It might comfort her to know that anytime she misses her pooch or hugs her dog pillow, her beloved pup may be doing the same thing at home.

Have a perplexing college question? Email Dear Roadie for advice at dearroadie@road2college.com

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