The Dogs of Haverford

The canine buddies of faculty and staff are a regular—and beloved— presence on campus.

‘‘I don’t want to sound all Californian here, but there’s something spiritual about dogs. If you’ve ever had a dog, you know what I mean; you can see it when you look into their eyes.”

—Dave Barry ’69,  Lessons From Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog

Dogs have always been a welcome addition to the campus community, from professors who bring their friendly pooches to office hours or class, to staff members who take their dogs to work. Then there is the Pre-Vet Society’s long-running De-stress With Dogs event, which brings dogs from a local animal shelter to campus during the last week of each semester to cuddle with finals-frazzled students. And starting last year, Four-Legged Fridays, launched through the Haverhealth initiative, gives the College’s dog owners a chance to share their furry friends with students.

But when President Wendy Raymond moved into 1 College Circle with her family, including seven-year-old beagle mix rescue Peanut, a new era of puppy love overtook Haverford. Peanut is not just a campus-wide celebrity, greeted by many on her campus walks with the president and her husband Dave Backus ’82, she is a social media star, with her own Instagram account. There, you can find photos of her napping luxuriously in her dog bed, exploring the campus, posing with student groups such as Haverford Women in STEM, and generally just looking cute. In the short Instagram videos in which she stars, Peanut can be glimpsed doing some nighttime nose-to-ground “research” outside the library, casing the President’s office in search of treats, doing “zoomies” (running in circles at rocket speed)… and looking cute.

For Raymond, as a newcomer to the Haverford community, Peanut has been the ideal connector. “Students stop us all the time during our walks with Peanut to have friendly, short conversations,” she says. “It makes Dave and me more approachable, because Peanut breaks the ice.” So popular is Peanut, that Raymond and Backus have gotten used to taking a back seat to her. “People greet us with ‘Hi Peanut!’ or ‘Where’s Peanut?’ This is true in my office as well: I recently met an alum who greeted me with: ‘I was hoping I might get to meet Peanut!’ ”

While Peanut undoubtedly possesses a special kind of First Dog cachet, there are plenty of other faculty and staff pups who are regular and beloved presences on campus, and who have attracted their own share of fans. (Continued after the gallery.)

Paul Smith, professor of history and East Asian languages and cultures has been bringing 10-year-old Sky to work with him every day since she was a puppy. “The Haverford campus is like heaven for dogs,” he says. “There are throngs of squirrels, a profusion of smells, lots of loving, and endless treats.” That last item comes courtesy of Sky’s many friends. “Sky’s favorite thing about coming to the main campus is bounding into Hall 101 to say hi to [Administrative Assistants] Krista McDonnell and Dru Ciotti—and getting a treat—and racing across campus to greet [Library Specialist] Rob Haley—and getting a treat. Dogs are pretty simple creatures.”

Smith’s students get along famously with Sky, he says. “Many more students say hi to her than to me.” However, he does not bring her to classes, leaving her, instead, to lounge in his office. “If she came to class, the students would never pay attention to me,” says Smith.

Director of Athletics Wendy Smith ’87 is rarely seen on campus without her dog, Patches, whose daily schedule, she says, includes walks, numerous naps, and “waiting for people to walk by my office and pet her.” Patches is also a fixture at outdoor athletic contests. “She’s definitely a Ford fan!” says Smith.

For students who are allergic to or afraid of dogs, Smith keeps a crate under her desk for Patches to retreat to. And most faculty and staff who bring their dogs to campus are similarly sensitive to the needs of students who may not be comfortable with canines. Associate Professor of Classics Bret Mulligan, whose dog, Pippa, regularly keeps office hours with him, also gives students options. “I always offer to meet students away from my office if they would rather not have Pippa join us,” he says. “So those students who come are usually interested in some doggie attention.”

Dean of Student Engagement and Leadership Michael Elias always alerts students to the presence of his pooch Monty. “We have an office policy of making sure students know he’s here—we use signs on our doors—but generally everyone is excited to see him, and the feeling is mutual.”

Many are also excited to see Padfoot, another four-legged regular in the Office of Student Engagement who comes to work with Assistant Dean of the College Michelle Leao. Says student worker Dexter Coen Gilbert ’21, “Michelle will text me if Padfoot is around for the day when I don’t have hours scheduled so I can come say hi and have him jump on top of me a thousand times. Honestly, he’s just a cute little de-stresser and a fun presence that makes my day a little brighter.” (As a matter of fact, research has shown that petting a dog for just 15 minutes can lower blood pressure by 10 percent, and can even reduce cortisol—the stress hormone.)

Professor of Political Science Susanna Wing brings her golden retriever Sebastian to work at least once a week. “He never wants to go home after class,” she says. “He prefers to find susceptible students and roll over at their feet so that they scratch his stomach. We live on campus and on weekend walks he drags me to [Hall Building] and I have to show him that the doors to the building are locked, which is always a big disappointment for him.”

Sebastian has made a big impression on students such as Elom Tettey-Tamaklo ’19, who was the lone first-year student in Wing’s “African Politics” course when she began bringing her puppy to the class. “He used to run between our legs and play with us,” says Tettey-Tamaklo. “It was a much needed comfort to know that there was another ‘first-year’ with me and we developed a bond. Every time I would go to Susanna’s office to speak to her, to lament about the future, or stress about my thesis, Sebastian was always there, listening and comforting me with his gentle and tender cuddling. Sebastian and I have grown up together and he has left an indelible mark on my heart.”

As much as the dogs love it here, their owners love bringing them. Says Professor of Economics Richard Ball, whose dog, Yoda, accompanies him to work, “Yoda has a good attitude about life, and it rubs off on me and everyone else he meets.” Also, says, Ball, “taking Yoda for short walks is very refreshing. I say it is like being a cigarette smoker with none of the downsides: Every couple of hours I have to get up, spend a few minutes strolling around outside my building, and then come back to my office—with my head cleared, but no tobacco-related health consequences.”

Yoda has not only made lots of human friends on campus, says Ball, he’s also got a regular playmate. “[Professor of Economics] Anne Preston’s office is right across the hall from mine, and she has a three-month-old puppy named Mosey who comes to work with her a lot,” he says. “Yoda and Mosey enjoy roughhousing and stealing toys from each other.” (Before Mosey, Preston for many years brought her Maltipoo, Buddy Glass, and toy poodle Kiwi to the office.)

Professor of Political Science Barak Mendelsohn wouldn’t think of coming to campus without his Siberian husky, Nina. She attends all of his classes, where she typically starts off with a circuit of the room to greet all of the students before settling under a chair or on top of a backpack for a nap. When she wakes, Nina will often pop up, put her paws on the seminar table, and check out what’s going on.

“Nina is a great tool to prepare students to present their work even when distracted,” he says. “I find it remarkable how adept students have become at continuing to talk even if she suddenly decides it’s time to wake up and say hi to the student standing in front of the class. Nina is helping us prepare students for their post-Haverford life.”

But Nina also provides another valuable service, says Mendelsohn. “Due to the nature of my courses, dealing with security questions and particularly terrorism, classes can be very intense. Having Nina around helps both the students and me to lighten up the mood. Besides, we all need cute in our lives, and, sometimes, when Nina does something cute, we all stop and look.”

Michael Iacono ’20, one of Mendelsohn’s students, has become a major fan of Nina for just those reasons. “[She] is by far one of the best dogs on campus,” he says. “She is super smart and always demands attention, which is very cute. Her presence in the classroom is noticeable but in a good way. She may be a bit distracting at times, but it is definitely worth having her around. Nina makes everyone much more relaxed and helps ease the mood during difficult discussions.”

Haverford and dogs just seem to go together, and there’s no mystery about why we just love having them around, says Wendy Raymond: It’s all about the unconditional love dogs are always ready to offer. “Why does Peanut have so many fans? She smiles. She wags. She’s cute! She’s excited about things—getting treats, going for a walk, seeing people, finding an abandoned bagel. She is a happy dog, and that’s infectious!”

Do you have fond memories of how a faculty or staff member’s dog brightened your days at Haverford? Tell us about it:

Photos by Holden Blanco ’17.