Puppy pettings have become a routine occasion every finals season, with a variety of student groups offering opportunities to pet animals for a small fee as a way to relieve stress. However, some members of the community have taken these opportunities to its furthest extent, adopting animals into their campus spaces.
While not all these animals serve the same purpose, from a family pet to an emotional support animal, their presence around campus can serve as a welcome sight for stressed students and a happy companion for their owners.
Roaming Around Town
Professor Elizabeth Grimm (GRD ’10), her husband Jacques Arsenault (COL ’01, GRD ’07) and their two sons, 7-year-old Hugo and 3-year-old Andre, live in McCarthy Hall with their dog Crouton. Grimm and Arsenault adopted Crouton, who has three legs, a year ago, according to Arsenault.
Crouton is a 5-year-old Labrador Husky, and his story is a remarkable one: he was shot in Texas, leading to the amputation of one of his legs. Crouton was later left him in an animal shelter where they kill the animals when the capacity of the facility is reached, according to Grimm and Hugo.
Crouton was later adopted by the Grimm and Arsenault family and has recovered from his injuries to become an incredibly healthy and active dog, according to Grimm.
“He’s actually incredible on the stairs,” Grimm said in an interview with The Hoya. “He’s really, really good at running. And so Jacques and I will often — a couple times a week we’ll take him out running. I mean, he is the world’s most perfect dog. He is the best.”
Due to his distinctive appearance and affable demeanor, Crouton is also frequently recognized by members of the Georgetown University community when he goes on walks, according to Arsenault.
“The nighttime walk is sometime between eight o’clock and midnight, and there’s a number of people that will call out by name, ‘Hey Crouton!’ or ‘Can I pet Crouton?’ Arsenault said. “Dozens, in any given walk, especially when it’s a later walk on a weekend night.”
Dogs are not the only pet members of the Georgetown community sharing their living space with students. Jada Huang (COL ’23) cares for Sweet Pea, a 1-year-old diamond dove, in her Village C East dorm room. While Sweet Pea does not usually leave Huang’s dorm room, he travels around the room freely without a cage so he can find comfortable spots in the campus environment.
“Yeah, so he does fly around a little bit, but he definitely has preferences for certain places in the room,” Huang said. “Also, doves naturally tend to be on the ground more than most birds would, so he doesn’t mind having a smallish space, although it’s pretty spacious for him because he’s tiny.”
Getting approval to have a pet in a dorm room can be a tedious process, with students having to coordinate their plans through both the Academic Resource Center and Residential Living, according to Huang.
According to the Academic Resource Center, requesting an emotional support animal in a dorm room requires proven documentation from health care providers, as well as vaccinations and licenses that are required through Washington, D.C. law. Students also have to abide by certain rules, including restrictions on where they can dispose of their pet’s waste to official surveys of the living space to determine its suitability.
While this process can take a while, the end result is worth it, as Sweet Pea is less as a pet that needs to be taken care of and more a friend, according to Huang.
“He’s one of my best friends, I spend a lot of time with him and he likes to cuddle and stuff,” Huang said. “He does so many things that are just cute and goofy, and I can like feed him a lot of the different foods that I actually eat. Yeah, he’s very sweet.”
Life on any college campus can occasionally be a difficult adjustment for animals, given the strange, artificial surroundings of a college campus. Dog owners can struggle to find open spaces to play with their dogs in because of the urban college environment, according to Grimm.
“We’re a little far away from the nearest dog park, which can be an issue,” Grimm said. “We also don’t have a yard, so we’re pretty careful about taking him off leash.”
Crouton, however, quickly adjusted to his new life and loves his new home at Georgetown, according to Grimm.
“You would think he’d be very traumatized around humans, that he’d be very skittish,” Grimm said. “He is the literal opposite of that. He loves loves loves people, loves kids.”
Since Crouton cannot go to every class Grimm holds weekly due to the possibility of students being allergic, his appearances around campus aren’t very common. Grimm takes Crouton to her office to do work and to her smaller senior experience classes to create a more intimate environment for her students, Grimm said.
He also joins the family on their school drop-offs daily in the Georgetown neighborhood, while other children at the local elementary schools also marvel at Crouton. Interacting with these children allows Crouton to be seen as a symbol of perseverance, according to Grimm.
“I brought him in one day to Andre’s preschool class, and all of the 3-year-olds brushed him and pet him,” Grimm said. “And it’s just such a good way to say to kids: ‘No matter what happens in your life, you can get through it; you can overcome it.’ He is a true model.”
On a similar note, not all of Sweet Pea’s habits are ideal for campus life, namely his fear of the dark and need for attention, which can occasionally cause sleepless nights for Huang.
“I was getting like horrible sleep because I had lights on and he would like bang into things at night because he was having nightmares,” Huang said. “He can also be very persistent with his calling when he wants attention, which can be a little annoying. It’s really not that bad, though. He’s pretty quiet.”
Despite all this, Sweet Pea loves to meet new people, be it for the first or the 50th time, and creates a more engaging campus experience for both Huang and her friends, according to Huang.
“He’s pretty good about it, like he’ll fly on top of other people’s heads pretty regularly within the first or second meeting,” Huang said. “He doesn’t like hands, but he’ll go on their head or like one arm.”
Connecting the Community
Students like Natalie Chaudhuri (SFS ’22) and Chloe Kekedjian (COL ’22) use their love for dogs to serve the community. They founded the Instagram account @doggosofgeorgetown last fall. Though the account holds a relatively small presence on the social media platform, their feed boasts a mix of dogs photographed on campus and in the Georgetown neighborhood.
Chaudhuri and Kekedjian started the page to simply share photos of cute dogs they saw on campus with their friend group, according to Chaudhuri.
“Whenever we saw a dog, Chloe was always really excited,” Chaudhuri said. “We would take pictures and send them to just our friends to kind of make their days better. It’s still something we do. But then Chloe was like, ‘We should make an Instagram page and have our friends follow that.’”
Some of the dogs featured on the account are more recognizable celebrity dogs, like Georgetown’s own mascot Jack the Bulldog in their “Jack spotting” series. Other photos are candids, with the account featuring close-ups of dogs posing in Red Square or slightly blurry paparazzi style shots of dogs far off in the distance.
While the latter of these photos are not ideal, the end goal of showcasing cute dogs is always the same, according to Chaudhuri.
“The pictures are, of course, always better when we get the consent of the owner,” Chaudhuri said. “But sometimes, we end up taking kind of stalkerish photos.”
Although most pictures are taken by the account owners, excitement over these Georgetown pets is not just limited to them, according to Chaudhuri. Many other students are on a constant lookout for these canine friends to share on the account. Kekedjian and Chaudhuri request in the bio of the account to send them pictures of dogs around campus.
“We love it when people send us pictures of the dogs,” Chaudhuri said. “It’s more fun, because sadly, we only get to see so many dogs per day. We’d love to increase the count.”
While the pressure of being a busy Georgetown student can occasionally take a toll, @doggosofgeorgetown aims to provide relief, according to Chaudhuri.
“Chloe sometimes jokes that this account is like the only thing getting her through the academic stress that comes with Georgetown,” Chaudhuri said. “I feel like that the account is just a small thing we can do to help push people through it.”
The dogs on campus are no strangers to helping Georgetown students destress from their busy lives. During events organized by community directors in the Southwest Quadrangle, many dogs, including Crouton, gather to ease anxious students nearing their finals or midterms.
The Hoya has also aimed to highlight the role dogs play on campus as stress relievers with “The Hoya Dog Series,” a collection of videos posted to Facebook throughout the past several years that feature the stories of student dogs.
“Crouton just loves this life of being on campus. He loves seeing students. He loves that interaction. Nothing fills him with more joy,” Grimm said.