Dog days prevail at Dartmouth

by Elliot Olshansky | 6/28/02 5:00am

The only mention of pets in the Student Handbook tells where they are not allowed: in the Hopkins Center, in the dining halls and in dormitories and other College-owned residence halls. This is somewhat ironic, as to the casual observer it seems that there are few places on campus where dogs are not allowed.

Despite the Town of Hanover's 1996 repeal of laws regarding dogs (in deference to stricter state regulations), dogs are a constant presence on the Dartmouth campus. On any given day, dogs can be found on the Green, in the classroom and even in President Wright's office.

One member of the Class of 2004 recalls going up to the president's office for matriculation during Freshman Orientation and noticing that his matriculation group had been followed up the stairs by a dog. The dog proceeded to roam around President Wright's office without incident as Wright handed out the matriculation certificates.

The President's office isn't the only office on campus where dogs have been made to feel welcome.

According to Kristen Barlow '02, whose dog Maggie is visiting her at Dartmouth for a couple of weeks, "[I took her to] the Registrar's office, she got two or three treats in there. Then [I took her to] the dean's office. I was running errands and they just all are more friendly to me than they usually are without her. Everybody's pretty good with letting dogs go everywhere."

In the History department office on the second floor of Reed Hall, one dog is more than welcome. In fact, Professor Judith Byfield joked that this dog is "the only one who has tenure."

The dog, whose name is Bentley, belongs to the department's academic assistant, Gail Vernazza. According to Vernazza, Bentley has been at Dartmouth since he was nine-weeks-old, which is quite impressive, given that Bentley is 17-years-old. For his part, however, Bentley isn't big on recognition.

"They did an article on dogs in the alumni magazine a few years back," said Vernazza. "We had a photo op out here and he refused to have his picture taken."

Chances are that Bentley would rather have been on the second floor of Reed Hall, where Vernazza says the dog has "free reign," which he often uses to protect his biscuits. Byfield agrees that Bentley is "very protective of his biscuits."

While Bentley probably wouldn't scare too many people in protecting his biscuits, the 1996 repeal of Hanover's dog laws in favor of the stricter state laws was largely due to dogs intimidating various people on and around the Dartmouth campus. According to Rick Alarcon '03, a dog owner, past instances of dogs being allowed to roam free had unpleasant side effects.

"When my brother [Robin Alarcon '96] was here," said Alarcon, "he had a dog, and he used to tell me all the dogs on campus used to get along really well on Webster Avenue... People would leave their dogs outside, and they would roam around campus and come back home at night. All the dogs on Webster Avenue used to get together and run around in a pack. They used to say it was really scary... you'd see a pack of dogs running around."

This changed in March 1996, when the Hanover Board of Selectmen voted down the 1973 dog laws, which stipulated a fine of $10 to the owner for each minor offense by a dog. According to state law, the owner(s) of a delinquent dog is fined $25 for the dog's first minor offense (i.e. excessive barking, roaming, etc.) and $50 for any subsequent offense. Major offenses (chasing bicycles or cars) carry a $50 fine for the first offense and $100 for any subsequent offense, while owners of dogs that attack human beings or other animals can be fined up to $200.

Some fraternities responded to the fine increases by installing electric fences to keep their dogs on fraternity property. According to Brandon Reiff '04, dog handler at Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, SAE's installation of an electric fence had an unfortunate effect on Samson, the fraternity's chocolate Labrador.

"When we first got the electrical fencing," said Reiff, "Samson used to get shocked every time someone changed [television] channels in the house. Not surprisingly, he is freaked out by it, so every time you take him outside the yard, you have to carry him over the line."

Fences and regulations notwithstanding, dogs generally play a positive role in students' Dartmouth experience. According to Barlow, "The nice thing about having [dogs] around in the spring, and especially in the summer, is taking them to places like Moosilauke, and hiking and camping and down to the River."

For Alarcon, one of the major benefits of owning a dog is found at home. "It's kind of nice to come home to a dog," said Alarcon, "because he's always happy."