Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013
Updated: Thursday, May 9, 2013 14:05
“Can I have a dog biscuit?” a student asked while popping the small milkbone into his mouth, before I could tell him that they were for the dogs.
This past Thursday, over 15 dogs could be spotted sun bathing on the quad for the “doggie meet and greet.” The event was hosted by Associate Professor of English, Professor Falbo, and English Professor Donahue. They both also teach VAST 248, The Dog Course. The VAST Students contributed to the organization and hosting of the event.
Students and faculty were invited to show off their pups and celebrate man’s best friend. “The main goal was an opportunity for people to get out with their dogs,” Falbo said. “And we definitely wanted to provide to our VAST students with the opportunity to observe diverse ‘interactive’ dog behaviors,” Donahue said.
Many dog breeds were represented, ranging from a shy bulldog to a pomeranian that was seen bullying a husky five times its size. Most dogs were well-behaved, though one dog, a golden retriever named Rosie, decided to cool off in the courtyard fountain.
“All the dogs are funny, and all the dogs are interesting,” said Donahue. One of her favorites was Angus, owned by Amy Abruzzi (a campus librarian) and her husband Bill.
“Not only are Amy and Bill sensitive and alert dog guardians (they know how to read their dog’s communication signals), but Angus is a happy and well-mannered West Highland terrier. It’s always nice to see a happy dog.” Dean of Students Paul McLoughlin’s pooch, Ellie, was also a student favorite.
VAST class members hosted games and provided treats for the dogs. “I enjoyed watching dogs figure out the hide-a-treat game,” Falbo said.
Meanwhile, themed music like “You Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog” set the playful mood. The Baha Men didn’t make it on the playlist.
To finish the event, Falbo and Donahue introduced some of the dogs in a show-like ring. Proud owners walked their dog while a brief biography of their pet was read aloud. “This is Indy, a great dane,” one biography read. “He has a heavy head and likes to rest it as often as possible.” Even Tucker, “the seafood-eating boxer” had his moment of stardom.
“We also wanted the event to be educational, which is why such materials as ‘how to greet a dog’ were distributed,” Donahue said. These educational tools relate to what was learned in The Dog Course.
The interdisciplinary course focuses on dog-centered topics such as the evolutionary history of dogs, ethical treatment of dogs, and a general understanding of the human-dog relationship. The curriculum included a trip to the Lakota
Wolf Preserve to visit dogs’ early ancestors.
“I hope students take away a new understanding of what dogs are,” Falbo said. “So far as scientists can tell, dogs were the first domesticated animals, so learning about dog evolution has implications for what we know about human evolution and probably what it means to be human.”
The event has occurred for over ten years. This semester was the last that VASTs and The Dog Course will be offered.