Courtney Hundzinski, OMS II at Nova Southeastern University, and her golden retriever Deya, whom she adopted from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
A lesson in love

Why I adopted a rescue dog from Puerto Rico during my first year of med school

After becoming a first-time med student, I decided to become a first-time pet owner. What could possibly go wrong?

On its face, adding dog ownership to an incredibly demanding OMS I schedule during finals seemed like a recipe for catastrophic failure. However, bringing a furry, affectionate golden retriever into my life proved to be just what the doctor ordered.

I grew up absolutely terrified of dogs, I would cross streets to avoid their gaze and hide behind my mom. So naturally, veterinary school was tabled and medical school prevailed. with age, though, I grew to like dogs more and more.

However, when I started med school, I never thought that I would be someone to adopt a dog from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

But fate intervened in the form of my sister’s golden retriever, whom I was taking care of intermittently. I knew my sister would be taking her back full-time around December, and we were brainstorming what to do because I had become so attached to canine companionship.

The journey

During this time, a sweet 7-year-old golden’s face popped up on the Golden Rescue of South Florida Facebook page. The next thing I knew, I was on my way to the Miami Airport shortly before Christmas to pick up Deya.

We were soon sitting in the back of my SUV, both extremely anxious and wondering what our futures held. She was exhausted from the flight, scared from the uncertainty, and wary of who I was, while I had no idea what I had just gotten myself into.

The first week I swear I slept with one eye open. As an instinct forged from living outside, she slept in corners to keep watch. I was saddened by all she had been through. I remember the first time she slept on her side, her belly exposed, showing her trust towards me.

We began to bond over our love of cheese sticks and carrots and really any food. She learned that couches and beds were now hers and that her sad, puppy-dog eyes could get her any treat she wanted. I clearly was a pushover!

Today, she shows her gratitude in face licks and snuggles. She reminds me when it’s time to get exercise or to have a snack. She loves children and her tail wags twice as fast when we see any. We share that same passion.

Lessons learned

Adopting Deya has shown me that I am capable of balancing the demands of First Aid and class PowerPoints along with daily dog walks and ‘Puppaccinos.’ She equipped me to be a better physician in intangible ways; I can intuitively sense her feelings, which has made me a better communicator. She reminds me to always have a watchful eye and to always give positive reinforcement.

Deya has taught me the sincerest form of friendship, how to think of others’ feelings, and the importance of self-care throughout this journey. She is my best friend, my study buddy, and my furriest supporter.

Further reading:

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