There is just something about dogs that brings joy and happiness to the people around them. Luckily for students at the University of New Mexico, the campus is a popular place to walk them.
Aluna is a two-year-old staffer terrier mix. She has short hair with black fur on her back and white hair on her snout and legs. Serving as a therapy dog for Latin American studies junior Lisette Camarillo, they go on walks about four times a day.
Aluna has an intimidating bark if she is confused or startled, but once she is introduced to another dog or person, she is fun and sociable to be around. She eats three meals of Pedigree every day, as well as whatever scraps she can snatch up from the floor. Camarillo says this has become a problem recently because Aluna got sick after eating some old food someone had dropped on campus.
Another furry friend frequently seen around campus is Alba, a nine-year-old dog. This is her first semester living at UNM with her owner, doctoral student Meghann Chavez.
"She really likes people," Chavez said. "I think she's really enjoying being on campus because undergrads will stop and want to pet her."
Alba gets startled when people on skateboards whizz by and will bark at them while they pass her, but is generally friendly to others. Chavez also said she does not take Alba to dog parks because she is a fast and agile escape artist and can climb over the fence easily.
Chavez and Alba walk together about five times a day, so Alba will stay calm napping in the dorm while Chavez studies. Her dog food always stays out for her for when she gets hungry, but Chavez will sometimes have to remind her to eat if it has been a while.
Because Alba is not registered as a therapy dog, Chavez was limited to which dorm she could live in, but she said having her dog on campus was worth it. Santa Clara and the Student Resident Center Apartments are the only dorms that allow all pets, not just emotional support animals.
"She’s a pretty nice dog," Chavez said. "I'm really glad we can live on campus. I'd like it more if we could live in the grad dorms, but it's super convenient that I can have her around with me."
While there may be many dogs living on campus, a large number of dogs pass through from nearby areas. Mariah Wheir is a UNM alumni who lives near campus with her 14-year-old Doberman, Xochi.
Wheir has been with Xochi since she was eight weeks old when they first met in Northern California. Since then, Xochi has lived a happy life but is starting to slow down with both bone and lung cancer as well as tumors on her back foot.
Wheir has to keep her foot wrapped in a boot so Xochi won't lick it raw, but they still play tug of war together every morning and walk through campus every night.
Wheir said she loves spending time with her dog, but she is really upset about people who do not keep their dogs on a leash around campus. She said other dogs will run up to Xochi and knock her over trying to say hello.
"It sucks when people are really irresponsible," Wheir said. "Or when they don't have bags, you know; I always clean up after her."
She said she had to call campus police once when people were walking around with three large dogs without leashes. Security responded very quickly to take care of the problem.
"It seems to be a lot of people come from off-campus and let their dogs wander around off-leash on campus, which is really bad," Chavez said in regard to Alba always staying on a leash.
UNM policy requires dogs to stay on-leash around campus but, just recently, they changed their policy to allow service pets to stay in the dorms. Artemis, a seven-year-old black and white cat, lives in Santa Clara Hall with English senior Deserae RoseKing.
This is their first semester living on campus, and Artemis rarely ever leaves the dorm room. RoseKing says Artemis can get startled or stressed if someone knocks on the door, and she will intentionally push things over or break things if she is upset. But, RoseKing also said she has a fun, quirky personality, and she is really easy to play with.
"She's happy here, but I think she could be happier," RoseKing said. "It's a small space, especially for a cat. They like to roam and be independent and everything, and she’s sort of stuck with me 24/7."
Daniel Ward is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wordsofward34