Sometimes, when walking outside, the people in front of me walk really slowly and it makes me feel a bit agitated.
Then I see a dog. Always smiling, the dog sticks its tongue out. And I am reminded that life is good.
When spring weather finally arrived during Week Five of spring term, I started seeing several dogs each day around campus. It’s fitting that the pleasant sun brings the dogs out to play. Some dogs come from town, but a good number of dogs are owned by Dartmouth students and faculty.
Walking into Kemeny, I began deliberately searching for some dogs. With little luck at the start, I eventually asked a janitor about whether he knew of any dogs in the building. His response was what I was hoping for: off the top of his head, he provided a list of dog owners. I headed out to find the first owner, math department administrator Tracy Moloney. The dog wasn’t there when I first met Moloney, so I returned the next day to meet Brandy, a flat-coated retriever.
While Brandy laid sprawled over the floor, Moloney gave me some insight about what it’s like having a dog on campus. According to Moloney, most of Dartmouth’s campus is dog-friendly. She typically walks Brandy around Occom Pond, the Green and frat row. (The outdoors seems to be an all-around positive for dogs, especially with the friendly people on campus.)
“When you’re walking your dog, everyone comes up to say ‘Hi’ to you a lot of times,” Moloney said. But the people only make half the interaction, and Brandy is friendly to everyone who comes up to her.
“She loves all dogs and all people,” Moloney said. “She wouldn’t be here if she wasn’t able to get along with other dogs.”
However, dogs that don’t get along with other dogs, or are simply too rowdy, don’t do well on campus.
“We have had other people bring in dogs that weren’t quite as calm, and it just didn’t work,” Moloney said. “They do have to be calm.” This one characteristic seems to embody the dogs that thrive on campus. Other qualities of an ideal “Dartmouth Dog” include being non-aggressive, well-taken care of and accepting of all dogs and people.
“If you ask the students, they have to be cute,” Moloney added.
It’s no wonder Brandy is doing so well at Dartmouth.
Later that day, I spoke with Vi Alvord ’20 about what it’s like to have a dog as a student. Sugar, their small, nine-year-old Pomeranian, sat on Vi’s lap throughout the entire conversation.
“The people on campus are generally friendly to dogs, but I don’t think the rules are,” Alvord said. “The rules don’t make it clear where you can or can’t bring the dog, especially for students.”
In general, dogs can’t be brought to libraries and places where food is served. Seven libraries, including Baker-Berry, plus the Class of 1953 Commons, the Courtyard Café, Novack Café and Collis Café are among popular campus destinations that may restrict dogs.
“If you think about it, that’s a lot of places they can’t go,” Alvord said.
Unlike employees that take their dogs home, students bring their dogs back to dormitories, Greek houses or apartments. Alvord and Sugar live in Alpha Theta, a gender-inclusive Greek house that has a different process than the residential system for dogs.
“If you have a roommate, you need to sign a contract basically understanding that the animal is part of the housing contract,” Alvord explained. “And after that agreement is made, we go to a vote for the house if it’s a new animal. You can either vote for the dog to be free roaming, supervised — which is when they need to be within eyesight — or ... restricted.”
Sugar is supervised. Since Alpha Theta is, for the most part, against the idea of a house dog because the dog’s supervision and care can’t be guaranteed at all times, animals are rarely, if ever, voted to be free roaming.
“I know this girl had a snake once,” Alvord added. “That was probably restricted.”
Dartmouth does have other challenges for dogs other than building-specific rules. Some of these problems can change. Some are embedded in campus culture. And some remain a problem for all dog owners, but admittedly are sensible.
To start, Dartmouth doesn’t have enough trash cans. Alvord spoke of the experience of carrying a poop bag for three blocks.
“It’s just not motivating for you to want to pick up your dog’s poop and carry it around forever,” they said.
I am glad that many dog owners are responsible pet owners, even though this problem exists. Otherwise, sitting on the Green could turn into an unpleasant experience. Another problem Alvord noted are places, like Sanborn, that put out dog bowls and don’t change the water. Dog owners should know that the water can be dangerous, but for the few dogs who do drink from those bowls, it’s problematic.
Speaking of drinks, drunk people on walks can be a concern for dog owners. As we all know, getting accustomed to these things eventually becomes natural. The best way to manage this is to simply be conscious of when and where you walk your dog.
Alvord also mentioned that the salted sidewalks in the winter that keep students from slipping hurt dogs’ paws. Before the school revolts and embarks on some anti-salt march to save the dogs, it’s important to remember that there are remedies to this, and that the salt keeps us safe from falling. According to Alvord, one solution is using “a lot of paw wax or booties.”
“The paw wax hardens once it touches the cold and so it performs a kind of protective barrier,” Alvord said.
This keeps the salts from hurting and cutting the dogs’ paws.
I asked another dog owner, Amanda Royek ’19, about the snow and Peach, her Pomeranian and Shiba Inu mix. The salts are also a bother, but the snow isn’t for Peach.
“She likes playing around in the snow,” Royek said. “She’ll eat it.”
Unlike Alvord, Royek lives with her dog in the dorms.
“As an emotional support animal, she’s only allowed to be in my room, on a leash to my room and outside,” Royek said.
Royek shares similar experiences to Alvord about the struggles of where dogs can and cannot be brought. But overall, she believes the campus is pretty dog-friendly.
The dogs of Dartmouth come in all shape and sizes. Moloney has a big dog. Alvord has a small dog. And Royek has a small-to-medium-sized dog. It’s as varied as Dr. Seuss’s “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” All the people I interviewed have had great experiences with their dogs, but it’s necessary to emphasize that all the people I interviewed are all mindful, caring dog owners.
It is the owner who chooses to train the dogs, who walks, feeds, grooms and navigates Dartmouth’s rules. Dogs do well on campus because the students do well in providing love and care.
We can see why Dartmouth dogs are always smiling.