Teacher’s pets—and students’ too—make Hyde Park feel more like home

For second-year Matt Miller, it’s hard enough managing school, swimming, and life as an Alpha Delta Phi brother. But now he has a flying squirrel to contend with.

By Carolanne Fried

[img id=”77255″ align=”alignleft”] Correction: Subsequent to the publication of this article, the Maroon learned that contrary to Matt Miller’s quotes, no Alpha Delta Phi brother bought a flying squirrel.

For second-year Matt Miller, it’s hard enough managing school, swimming, and life as an Alpha Delta Phi brother. But now he has a flying squirrel to contend with.

“Someone bought a flying squirrel, and it got loose, and we can’t catch it,” Miller said. The squirrel was purchased at an exotic-pet store last week, and since its escape, it has proven too fast to recapture. “It’s fine. It’s not rabid or anything.”

The flying squirrel would have joined two cats to become the third pet in the house. “It’s nice to have pets around because it makes you want to maintain the house, so they don’t get into things they shouldn’t,” Miller said.

The brothers of Alpha Delta Phi are not the only animal lovers on campus. Both students and professors make time for pets despite their busy schedules and sometimes small living quarters. The animals run from the exotic to the more mundane, but owners have deep attachments to all.

Third-year Joey Crnich brought his childhood cat from home when he moved to an apartment. Houdini, who is easy to take care of, spends most of his time sleeping.

“His one prerequisite for sleep is that there must be clothes,” said Crnich, who often finds the cat asleep on a pile of laundry.

Fourth-year Andrea Goldstein also saw moving to an apartment as the perfect chance to become a pet owner. She adopted a dog, Gehrig, after leaving the dorms last year. “I always wanted a dog,” she said. “It was the first chance I could get to adopt one.”

Goldstein, who lives in an apartment on East 54th Street and South Ellis Avenue, said she’s not the only person in her building with an animal. “There used to be a chicken named Papa Smurf,” she said. The chicken was originally purchased for an outdoor party held by another group of students and then remained in the yard for months.

Second-year Desiree Dickerson had a similarly unique concept of pet owning in mind when she bought a Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula. “She was kind of an impulse buy during Halloween season, but I’m glad I did it,” Dickerson said.

Anne Henley, chair of undergraduate psychology, finds her two dogs, Newton and Otto, a comfort both at home and at work. Henley brings the two large water dogs to her office two or three days each week, when she knows she’ll be in the office most of the day. “I had dogs as a graduate student, and I had dogs as an undergraduate, and I had two dogs growing up,” Henley said.

Sugar, a dog Henley owned before Newton and Otto, was even present for Henley’s dissertation defense, and fell asleep in the corner. “One of the committee members was looking around for a snoring student, but it was my dog snoring, through my entire defense,” Henley said.

Far from frightening, the big dogs seem to attract students to Henley’s office. “Many students come by just to pet the dogs,” said Henley, whose students are mostly first- and second-years. “The first-years especially miss home…. They will come by because they miss their pets.”

With all of these animals running around, some find that owning a pet as a student sometimes interferes with day-to-day schedules.

“I can definitely blame procrastination on my dog,” said Goldstein, who frequently gets delayed on her way to the library because Gehrig wants to be petted. Crnich agreed, and said that Houdini doesn’t get in the way of attending classes, but can be needy while he is trying to do homework.

While owning a pet on campus has proved to be manageable for these students, the real problem is leaving campus. With the exorbitant price of shipping and the difficulty of finding an airline that will allow a pet, traveling can be harder than getting someone else to pet-sit, according to Crnich.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do with Houdini over the summer,” Crnich said. “It really depends [on] where I end up going.”

Logistics for summer and winter break may prove difficult, but Goldstein said that smaller trips are not a problem, because friends vie for time with her dog. “If I go away for a weekend, there is usually someone who wants to kidnap Gehrig,” she said.

Miller, who contended with the flying squirrel and plans on buying a cat in the spring, said that despite the occasional hang-ups, it’s worth it to have an animal in the house. “After a long day, it’s nice to play with a pet,” Miller said.