Dog ownership a risky proposition among college students

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Blacksburg, Va., April 27 – Sit, Boy!: A Virginia Tech student and her dog show off some tricks during the first annual Pup Walk outside McComas Hall. Photo: Melissa Cisneros

by Ryan Dye, Melissa Cisneros–

Pros and cons, checks and balances, benefits and disadvantages; there are two sides to the story of owning a pet while in college.

While some students simply adopt a pet just to have one, other students have different motivations.

“Honestly, I was dealing with some depression and stuff like that,” said Carlie, a college student. “There’s a lot of studies about how dogs can help with mental health and I’ve had dogs back home, so I know they do. So I decided to look for one to adopt.”

While Carlie does not have her dog registered as an emotional support animal, many college campuses are beginning to experience a steep rise in applications to have animals as support mechanisms.

According to the Official US Service Animal & Support Animal Registry, an emotional support animal is an animal that helps students cope with diagnoses of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other emotional disorders.

At Ithaca College in New York, ESA’s jumped from 4 in 2012 to 43 in 2016, a trend that is also showing across campuses nationwide.

For Carlie, she can feel the benefits of having her dog with her in her apartment.

“For one thing, I feel like having a dog to take care of motivates me to get out of the house,” Carlie said. “Taking her for walks, I’m exercising every day because I’m going outside with her. If I’m feeling down, she always brightens up my day.”

The rise in animals on campus stems largely from a 2011 court decision. United States v. University of Nebraska at Kearney determined whether a university, as a provider of housing for its students, must comply with the standards set out in the Fair Housing Act.

Fellow Virginia Tech student Aubrey Stephenson and her friends have a “dog pack” — a group of friends who own dogs — and use their dogs as a way to get out and stay active.

“We have a bunch of friends in a group chat,” said Stephenson. “We all go out every day and let them run around and play for about an hour.”

Stephenson understood the rigors of pet ownership in college and did “hours and hours” of research before adopting.

“Always do your research. Make sure you want a dog. If you’ve never had one before, maybe take care of a friends’ or volunteer at the animal shelter first,” Stephenson said. “My dog is really high energy. He loves playing so he needs a lot of activity or he might eat my couch.”

SCI/TECH: SpaceX’s next steps

by Amber Miller, Stephen Newman, Ryan Dye–

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Space exploration leader SpaceX recently used a rocket to send a supply capsule to the International Space Station…for the second time.

The Block 4 Falcon 9 rocket was first launched into space in April of 2017. After detaching from the cargo it was carrying, it was guided down and landed on an un-manned SpaceX drone ship off the coast of Florida.

The rocket was then recovered, refurbished and sent into space again earlier this week. And just as the first time, it landed bullseye on the ship.

These rockets were only designed to be launched up to two times, but SpaceX will next launch the Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket, which according to Elon Musk can potentially be relaunched up to 100 times.

This breakthrough could dramatically cut the cost of space exploration and could lead to Musk’s ultimate goal of putting one million people on Mars in the next 40-100 years.

Motor Mile Speedway changes course, looks to future

Fairlawn, Va., March 14 – Motor Mile Speedway – The inside wall on the front stretch is emblazoned with the logo of Shelor Motor Mile, whose owner is a part owner of the track. Photo: Ryan Dye


by Ryan Dye–

Motor Mile Speedway in Fairlawn, Va. knew something had to change. With attendance down – a trend that currently plagues more than just the small-town short track racing scene – ownership decided to try something new.

The track announced in November their plans to cut their ties with NASCAR, choosing not to renew their NASCAR sanction for the 2018 season. A NASCAR sanction means the track was on the schedule for a NASCAR sanctioned event. Without renewing the sanction, the track will no longer have weekly points-paying oval races.

“Track ownership made the decision,” said Public Relations Manager JW Martin. “A lot went into it…and it was ultimately decided that the racing aspect of our program was unsustainable moving forward.”

In its place, the track released a seven-event schedule running from April through September consisting of special one-off events. Of those events, the annual monster truck show – which according to Martin sold nearly 7,500 tickets alone last year – will make its return along with two demolition derbies.

While the cost of the sanction itself played a role, the speedway also didn’t want to raise their prices to the fans of the track.

“In a way, the tracks and the race teams, they cannibalize one another (for sponsorship money) or you pass that along to your race fans,” Martin said. “You begin to up-charge them for concessions and tickets, and we did not do that.”

In 2017, the track announced that they would discontinue bracket racing at the drag strip situated just behind the backstretch in favor of more emphasis on the Friday Night Fury drag racing that allows amateurs to race their street vehicles.

A controversial decision at first, Martin noted that attendance actually increased last season, which led to the track choosing to bring back standard bracket racing for the 2018 season.

While Martin doesn’t know if that success will be replaced on the oval track, it was still something ownership had to try.

“The track ownership, their position on it is every year is a new year. They are always revisiting the business model and I think anything is possible for 2019.”