October 1, 2008

Students Live With Their Dogs, Despite Rules, Challenges

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Whether fetching tennis balls on the Arts Quad, strolling down the streets of Collegetown or laying beside the gorges, canines have become a noticeable part of campus life. But who takes care of these dogs? Where do they live? And what happens to them after their owners graduate?
One dog, Meeko, lives with his owner Tom Hudson ’11 and several of his fraternity brothers.
“Two of us originally planned to take care of him, but then more people just got involved and helped taking him for walks,” Hudson said. “Meeko lives in a house with all the other brothers, we’ve had some trouble training him, but he’s a really sociable dog.”
Meeko is one of many fraternity dogs on campus. Jeff Katz ’10 recalls a time when there were three dogs living in his fraternity house at one time.
“Three guys all had dogs at the same time, they all got along fine; they just had to be taken out a lot,” he said.
But dogs and some other pets are forbidden in Cornell’s dormitories, sororities and other on-campus apartments. Katie Baumann ’11 lives in a sorority house this year and has trouble coping without a dog.
“It’s a little unfair that boys can have dogs in their houses but girls can’t,” she said. “I guess dogs can be messy animals sometimes but if they’re well taken care of, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to have one in my house.”
Baumann intended to bring a pet with her to her house this year, but was forbidden from doing so.
“I was told we had some problems with sanitation with animals, and our executive board decided it was better not to have them for hygiene issues,” Baumann said.
According to the University, dogs are allowed in campus residence halls, but they must be vaccinated, owners must clean up after them, and dogs must be leashed at all times. In Collegetown, it is the landlord’s discretion whether or not to allow dogs to live alongside their owners.
Local vendors in Ithaca follow similar rules.
“We have a no pets allowed policy because many customers are bothered by dogs and other pets,” Starbucks employee Sara Lowe said. “People usually come by to do work or to talk to friends. Dogs kind of interrupt that atmosphere when they bark and pant.”
Despite the restrictions placed on dogs in and around Cornell’s campus, owners still find ways to host dogs in Ithaca
“I love having Meeko,” Hudson said. “Over the summer I took him to the gorges all the time. Meeko had a great time swimming and meeting new people and dogs. Sure having him can be hard sometimes, but it’s worth having him just for the companionship.”
After college, however, Hudson is not sure what he will to with his dog. One option he has considered is keeping the dog in his fraternity for new members of the house to take care of.
“I don’t know where I’m going to be in three years, I may end up living somewhere where I just can’t keep Meeko. If that’s the case I’ll have to be sure people can still be there to take care of him,” Hudson said.
But is having a dog on campus worth the trouble presented by University housing policies?
“Definitely,” Hudson said. “People are always willing to help walk him, and dogs are great for stress too. Everybody seems to get happy when they see a dog running around.”