Contrary to popular belief, the Rice squirrels aren’t the only four-legged creatures on campus. Rice University is home to many other pets owned by faculty member. These animals have become so closely ingrained in Rice’s “culture of care”, often helping students to de-stress and still have fun amidst midterm season.
After coming across an online ad for two King Charles Cavalier Spaniel puppies, Duncan Resident Associates Courtney Stefancyk and Myron Clemence drove to Dallas to pick up their new pet Leroy. “He's a diva for sure, he's very spoiled, and he loves human attention,” Clemence said. “If anything, we think he's just become more spoiled since he has moved in.” Leroy also has his own Instagram account @tinyleroy, in which Courtney and Myron show off videos of Leroy doing agility tricks or spending time in the Duncan lounges. For new RA’s, owning a dog has helped increase their presence among their new students at Duncan College. “He's very recognizable and we often walk him around campus, so there's probably a lot of students who we've never really talked to but have seen him,” Clemence said.
Jones College Coordinator Michelle Bennack's dog is an 11-year old Golden Retriever. "Beau is a ham," Bennack said. "If you walk into my office, the first thing he'll do is stick his head right between your legs." Bennack picked him up as a two year old from a Golden Retriever rescue, where he was found as a stray. "There are students who specifically come to my office for no other reason than just to sit, pet Beau for about five minutes, and then get up and go, 'Okay, I can go now.' Beau likes to sleep under Bennack's desk but will often run to his basket and grab his tug rope to play when anyone comes into the office. "Dogs are a really important part of people's lives, and students come to campus having to leave a pet at home that they're used to being around everyday," Bennack said. "I think this fills that niche for a lot of students who miss their home pets."
Kerri Barber adopted Bruin within a month of becoming a Jones RA. She rarely calls him Bruin--more often she uses the pet name (no pun intended) Bru Bru, and for Bennack's dog Beau, she uses Beau Beau. Like Beau, Bru was a stray. "When I got him, he had just been picked up by the Braeswood County police and he was super skinny and [had] bad fur," Barber said. Last spring, a student tried to teach Bru how to jump through a hula hoop. Barber bought a hula loop, left her door unlocked, and let the student attempt to teach Bru the new trick. "He went through a lot of treats that spring and gained a little bit of weight, according to the vet," Barber said. "Now he knows how to walk through the hula hoop. He was terrified of it before." Bru is also an avid squirrel-hunter. Whenever he spies one, he freezes in a hunting pose to watch it. "He wants to try and eat the squirrels, and thankfully he hasn't," Barber said.
When Sid Richardson College Magister Ken Whitmire noticed his first dog Stella looked lonely two years ago, he immediately found a breeder to buy Lady “I decided I wanted an Australian Shepherd because of their temperament and how pretty they are,” Whitmire said. Lady loves to lick lips and play with her sister Nala. Of all of Whitmire’s dogs, Lady has the most energy. “Occasionally, Lady escapes, and because Sid is connected to the college, she escapes into the commons,” he said.“She's really fast. If someone comes to the door and is not careful when they come in, Lady will be up in the commons in about ten seconds.”
Nala, the dog of Whitmire’s daughter, is about a year-and-a-half old and just moved into Sid Richardson College this year. Though she has only been at Rice for a couple of months, she already gets along well with Stella and Lady especially. “Nala has decided that her place is my bed, and she will go lie in my bed during the day,” Whitmire said.“She curls up right at the base of my pillow and lies in my spot.” Although she often escapes by squeezing under the gate to chase squirrels, she’s “pretty good” about coming back.
Though Stella originally lived with Whitmire’s second daughter, Stella moved into Sid Richardson in Whitmire’s first year as a College Magister. Stella, a Border Collie- Golden Retriever mix, is almost nine years old. Her calming presence makes it easy for students to open up to her. When a personal tragedy affected one of the students in the college a couple of years ago, she found comfort in playing with Stella. “As magister, sometimes students are not so ready to open up to you about what they're feeling, but this person just talked to Stella for about half an hour, and it was good!” Compare to Lady and Nala, Stella is more reserved and enjoys resting her chin on her favorite chair to nap.
"P. Seamus" is short for Popeye Seamus. Martel Resident Associates Taylor Cooper and Ben Stevenson wanted to name him Seamus, but felt bad stripping him of "Popeye," which was a name he received in foster care because he pulled through a difficult case of mange. They settled on P. Seamus as a play off of "P. Sherman Wallaby Way" from Finding Nemo. "The picture of him was [from] when they first picked him up, so his hair was a little funky and he kinda looked like he'd been through it,but he still had this cute tongue hanging out and cute little eyes and nose," Cooper said. "We were like, yeah, that's the one." He's particular about his treats, and a lover of sweet potatoes. His worst habit? "In the mornings, very, very early, he likes to get a squeak toy and squeak it until you throw it," Cooper said. "He's a morning dog, 100%."
Edit 1/3/2018: The article has been corrected to state that Beau is Michelle Bennack's golden retriever. A previous version of the article stated that Bennack is an 11-year old golden retriever.
Watch the dogs in action:
The residential college system allows students to live among faculty, staff, and yes - pets. Here's a few of the dogs that roam around our colleges. Music: Pacific Sun, Nicolai Heidlas