Part 4: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time - The Pets and Animals File
College professors from around the country have offered the most outrageous excuses their students have given for missing a class, a test, or an assignment. Here are the best ones concerning issues students have had dealing with our four legged friends from the Animal Kingdom.
As an overview, this article is part of a series (Overview: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time - Introduction to the Article Series), exploring what excuses college students have offered to explain an absence, a missed exam, a paper or project being late, etc. All of these excuses have been collected from this author’s contemporaries - professors and instructors at colleges and universities all across America. As such, it is a “crowdsourced” piece, and I owe them my gratitude for sharing their “best” excuses - which in reality means the “worst” - from their students over the years that provided the basis for this article series. And in all of these articles, each of which deals with a different “origin area” for student excuses, from health to tech to social to pets and more, we not only see excuses that make us laugh, but we also see some that could make you cry, as there are also stories of students who “went the extra mile” and persevered over the unique obstacles they might have faced in their lives to succeed in school.
In this article in the series exploring college student excuses, we look at how issues, both real and imagined, with the Animal Kingdom come into play in causing students to miss a class, a test, or a paper/project submission deadline. So, without further ado, let’s open the pets and animals file and see some quite "interesting" excuses dealing with our four-legged friends!
Now to begin with, my colleagues from around the country shared experiences from their student days in regards to their own "interesting" animal encounters:
“Now mind you, this was before emails through smartphones and laptops that had WiFi. I once was attacked by a dog 20 minutes before class. It happened at my friend’s house who I walked to campus with every day. Her mom bandaged me and then drove me to campus so I could walk in to tell my prof that I’d be missing class (that already started) because I had been attacked by a dog. In my defense I had almost passed out and was out of it. He looked at me strangely and shrugged his shoulders and went on teaching. I almost passed out walking out of class.”
“I live and work in metro Boston; the wild turkey is a protected species in Massachusetts. If you touch a turkey, you can be fined. In a grad school class, I was once 15 minutes late to a group meeting to work on our final project because a group of turkeys had wandered into the road. All the cars were stuck in place until the turkeys decided to meander to one side of the road or the other.”
“Had a student be late because she said that there was a sea turtle crossing the road. (she lived in Tybee island and taught at Georgia Southern, so this is a legit thing there).” To which a fellow animal loving colleague replied: “One day after a big storm, I had to stop to help about a dozen turtles across the road on my drive into town (I live in rural Kentucky). I was late for my 8:30 am meeting by about 10 minutes. Everyone agreed I did the right thing.”
My contemporaries’ reports of student encounters with animals of all types were - without a doubt - “interesting” as well, and represented many different parts of the Animal Kingdom!:
“One of mine got bitten by a duck.”
“We have a large equine program on our campus so about once a year a horse dies. Student emails me: ‘Sorry I will not be in class professor but I had to attend a necropsy and I’m covered in blood.’ I said ‘You go change, kid!’ (we get a list of students attending-she was legit).”
“Ok this one was actually true, though it sounds fake. A student called me (knowing I’d never believe an email) that she couldn’t get out of her house to come to class because there was a mountain lion on her porch! (It’s Colorado, so this stuff happens haha)...Similarly, I had a colleague get stuck in his house when a family of skunks moved in under his porch!”
“I had a student whose 20+ goats got out of their pen. Someone a few miles away called the sheriff when she saw a tribe of goats wandering down her dirt road. She sent me this beautiful picture of when they found the goats on a tree lined road in the country. It took hours to round them up and get them home.”
“I had a student miss the final exam because she was ‘mauled by a bear.’ True story - it was big news in my neck of the woods! P.S. She was okay. But that's exactly how she worded the email.”
“Student was late because she said she ran over an otter on the way to class. then proceeded to pull out her phone and show me photos of the deceased. I've never heard anything so unusual in my life. "Otterly" unbelievable! It was better than the student that told me they slipped and fell in the shower then self diagnosed they sustained a concussion and couldn't make it.”
“A student missed a test after a run-in with a bat necessitated rabies shots.”
“Student emailed me to the effect: ‘I raise hairless guinea pigs and we just had babies. The mother rejected them and I have to feed them every two hours around the clock. I can’t find someone to cover the shift during your final exam. Could I take it another time? I shit you not.’ Puppies I get. Hairless guinea pigs? I didn’t even know that was a thing! Then I saw a photo on Facebook years later and was amazed. This was the last excuse of the year. She literally had an excuse every single test for all three quarters. I promised myself I would not excuse her for any reason. This took the cake!”
“Yesterday while we were in a Zoom class, one of my students got a bat in her room and we all watched (transfixed and yelling encouragement) while her apartment maintenance dude ran around with a bag and a ladder trying to catch it.”
Now, cows seem to be a category all their own when it comes to causing student “issues:”
“I had a student that said she needed to miss class for the birth of a calf at home. I confirmed she did actually live on a farm. She also volunteered to give me pics of the occasion. I told her...that's okay, just come to the next class. Lol”
“Student called right before class...My cow is birthing a calf and it is breech so I have to assist. Definitely gave a pass on that one.”
“A young woman in my Western Civ course came up to explain that she would miss class a couple of weeks into the fall semester because she had qualified to exhibit her champion Holstein at the state fair. A) She was shocked that I didn’t freak out, but I am from this area so I get it; b) for farm families, the purse and sale of the state champion means a lot of money for the winner. I wished her luck, and by gum, they won!”
“I teach in a rural area and one of my best students apologized profusely when telling me that he couldn't make it to class because ‘the cows got out and they were roaming onto the county road’ and he had to go round them up. I am sure it was true and it was the only class he missed the entire time he was my student (in multiple courses).”
Finally, there are those animal encounters that students have that end up being really serious for students - in their real lives well beyond the classroom:
“Well... I actually believed my student because I had mostly rural students. He called me over in the middle of lecture and was like. ‘Um, Prof., Can I leave because my gf just got bit by a water moccasin (poisonous snake) in the back yard and she’s home alone. We have called an exterminator but I guess they missed one.’ Later when he wasn’t coming to class I emailed him to see if they were ok. He apologized and said he couldn’t do class anymore because she was a hairdresser and got bit on the hand so they had to watch it to see whether she would have to amputate... in the meantime he would have to be the sole income.”
Pets bring such joy to our lives, and we all have experienced pets being sick, lost, or other concerns. Perhaps pet-related excuses are so powerful (i.e. they work!) because we can all relate to them! And yes, many student excuses stem from our dogs, our cats, and yes, our ferrets:
“My student missed class from taking his puppy to the vet after the dog began to act weird from getting into a stash of weed. So crazy that is not on the list of excusable absences.”
“I had a student who missed the first several weeks of class and several assignments and said it was because their cat had been sick.”
“Student’s puppy had eaten a 3” screw. She legit emailed me the x-rays from the vet.”
“One student said her cat got caught in the dishwasher…” (And no, this professor didn’t say if the story had a happy or sad ending…)
“Lost her ferret in the vent...”
“One of my students: ‘Sorry I had to leave the meeting early. My dog licked my eye.’ I laughed, told her I'd never heard that one before, and reminded her to finish her work.”
“I had a student once meet me outside the classroom prior to the final exam to inform me she wasn't staying to take it. She explained that she had an asthmatic cat at home and she was worried that she had forgotten to turn on the air conditioner. I was an adjunct at the time, and she created a major hoopla when she received a zero on it.”
And yet, pet stories can be absolutely true - and yes, it really helps of you’re a student with credibility telling it!:
“A cat was stuck in our air vent and we had to rescue it. Here's a picture of the cat as proof. (This is one of the kindest hearted students I have ever had, and I have had her for several classes. I definitely believed her.)”
But then there are students that have fake pets, much like fake aunts, grandmothers, and close friends. Below is the best story on this point from a contemporary:
Student emailed me saying, ‘My dog was hit by a car and I had to take him for emergency surgery.’ I got a colleague to ask him how his dog was doing. He replied, ‘Dog?’”
Now while we may laugh at some of these excuses for their statistical unlikelihood and their absurdity, there are also excuses that are both absolutely true and in many cases, positively inspiring. So, almost every one of the articles in this series on student excuses will conclude with one or more stories submitted by professors across America of students who overcame adversity in dealing with their personal issues. And so, we will wrap-up this chapter where we have indeed had some fun looking at the excuses submitted by college faculty on how some students have used pet and animal issues as an excuse with two very different stories.
First, we have an excuse submitted by one of my fellow college faculty members where the professor regretted how he handled the situation. In fact, this one anonymous colleague felt bad - really bad - about the consequences of what happened to one of his students’ pets, partially on his account:
“A few years ago I lectured my students about how important it was for them to come to class. Then I had a student whose dog ran away and who stopped looking for him to come to class. I felt horrible.”
And then we have a story from another contemporary that is almost beyond belief. In this case, the student was not just very fortunate to survive her animal encounter, but came back to class way faster than most any other human could after what she had survived:
“I had a student that was riding a horse over an 8 foot high footbridge and she fell off the horse to the ground below the footbridge and then the horse fell on top of her. It broke both of her legs and one arm, but she came back to class three days later.”
The Article Series
If you enjoyed reading this article on the best excuses offered by college students regarding legal issues, please check out the other articles in the series exploring a whole host of other “causations” of absences, missed tests, late projects, etc. It’s all offered in a good spirit, and I hope you will check them out for yourself and perhaps share with your colleagues - and maybe even your students!
Enjoy this article - or these articles? Please buy Professor Wyld's ebook - The Handbook of College Student Excuses - that compiles all of these excuses in one place - for yourself, for a college student you know (or parent), or for a college faculty member. It is a great, fun read, and makes a great gift! Get it today from Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1073655) or on Amazon (https://amzn.to/3rM5IXZ). You can also view the college student "Excuse of the Day" on Dr. Wyld's blog at http://www.collegestudentexcuses.com/the-best-excuse-of-the-day/.
About David Wyld
David Wyld is a Professor of Strategic Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, publisher, executive educator, and experienced expert witness.
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