It's that time of year, y'all. It's getting warm. People are playing in the grass. We're shoving aside our academic responsibilities to have a little bit of free time with our friends. I shaved my beard. And we all want to get a dog.

Or a cat, as the case may be. But I find that it's hard to keep 21-year-old guys from wanting to have a best buddy to hang out with who doesn't argue with us about our beer choices or which girls we hang out with.

There are plenty of justifiable reasons to get a dog. Not only are they vehicles of unconditional love and admiration, the responsibility a domestic animal requires surely can guide us to a more accountable and thoughtful existence. More tenderly, the gratification that comes with caring for a being that cannot care for itself in this crazy world is immense.

I know I'm convincing, but before you rush off and start looking for your new best friend, I'm going to leave one little seed in your brain. If you become a pet owner, you should adopt from a shelter.

Some of the reasons are obvious. Shelter pets are already spayed or neutered. They are in good health, having been cared for by people who truly love animals. They're relatively cheap – dogs and cats at animal shelters around Knoxville range from $20-$80 in adoption fees.

Another worthwhile reason to adopt from a shelter is that, if you adopt a puppy or dog, you are likely getting a mixed breed. Though purebred dogs can surely be healthy, those from abhorrent puppy mills tend to have a lower gene pool and may die earlier in life, as well as have health problems. Research has shown that mixed breeds can live longer and lead healthier lives because they would on average inherit less "bad genes" that could be ironed over by genetic diversity (remember high school biology, you guys?).

This is not to suggest that insulated family breeders of purebred dogs are irresponsible. If you're dead set on a dog raised by a family, check the newspaper for ads. Family breeders are dog lovers themselves and have no connections to profit-driven puppy mills.

Still, clearly the most heartfelt reason to adopt a shelter pet is that, simply, you'll save a life. Though shelters in the Knoxville area aren't as filled as in major cities and can hang onto animals for quite some time, that doesn't change the fact that about 2.7 million dogs are euthanized each year for lack of space. In addition, not only do you save a life by adoption, you give another animal a space at a shelter for rehabilitation and care.

And, if you're looking to adopt, try to adopt an older pet. Everyone wants puppies and kittens. These babies don't have trouble finding a new home. It's the 6-year-old skittish, neglected pet who needs a home the most.

Plus, pets are good for you. According to the Center for Disease Control, pets can decrease your blood pressure and cholesterol. Also, it's clear that pets make you more social. Not only do you have to get out to walk them, but they become a magnet for people to talk to you. You can make all sorts of new friends who are pet lovers.

If you're worried about not having a yard or enough space to let your pet run around, Knoxville has four dog parks, including one downtown.

Finally, and most importantly, having a pet makes you infinitely cooler in the eyes of your orange-clad peers. Think of how many precious Instagrams you can post.

So if you're looking for a new companion, there are some places you should look. Just off Sutherland Avenue is Young-Williams Animal Animal Center. Maryville has the Blount County Animal Shelter. There's one in Loudon and Sevierville. And if those don't work for you, just get on the web. There are dozens of animals in foster homes just waiting for a new best friend.

Wade Scofield is a senior in religious studies and Latin. He can be reached at wade@utk.edu.