Is Harvard Going to the Dogs?

Mutts. They're everywhere nowadays: Playing catch near Sever, sunning in front of the Science Center and even roaming the government department office--which leaves us to wonder:

He eats dining hall food, comforts homesick students, and likes to watch Homeward Bound.

A Room 13 Counselor? Not quite.

Jasper is a fun, friendly and furry character that lives in Mather with his owners, Tutors David J. Ellison and Jill Dalby Ellison.

"We received our dog as an anniversary present," Mr. Ellison said. "We knew if Jasper was problematic, we would have to part with him."

Resident tutors and house masters alike have enjoyed the company of their favorite canine friends at Harvard for years.


Dogs have had historical significance at Harvard, according to Arnold Professor of Science William H. Bossert '59, master of Lowell House. President A. Lawrence Lowell, class of 1877, was often seen walking his dog. Bossert named his previous dog Abbott, in honor of Lowell.

While they may not be allowed to have pets of their own, many students say they enjoy having the canines around despite the occasional barking.

Lowell House resident Dave T. Nuscher '94 says the Bosserts' dog has become a mascot of sorts for the house.

"Having Rusty around is definitely good," he says. "Even though some say he is a nuisance, he's great to have as a mascot--even the faculty thought he was."

Associate Dean of Freshmen W.C. Burriss Young 55 obtained his English cocker, Tizzy, as an abandoned pet seven years ago. Young says he has no idea exactly how old Tizzy is but knows she is "ancient and has a great deal of trouble seeing,"

Young said that in the past seven years Tizzy has comforted several students who have missed their own furry canines at home.

"The thing your leave behind when you come to college," Young says, "is a pet that perhaps you have confidence in."

Virginia L. Mackay-Smith 78, assistant dean of the College, also says her dogs added a home-like touch to dorm life.

"A lot of people had dogs at home, and people would come in to say hi' to the dog," she says. "They would love to have a dog to pet."

Mather resident Douglas J. Sutton '94 says he takes care of the Ellisons' dog because he misses his dog at home.

I had a dog at home, and I missed it," Sutton says, "[Watching Jasper] gives me a nice break from work, and my room mates seem to love it."

But Young says that while he believes administrators should be able to have dogs, students' schedules make handling pets nearly impossible.

"I think deans should have dogs as part of their profession," Young says. "The problem with students is what to do over vacations and in the spring."

First-year Proctor Linda M. Pedelty says raising a dog in Harvard Yard requires additional attention than is normally needed.

"If I am going to be away for more than three hours," she says, "I'll have to arrange to have her visit Auntie Jessica down the hall or have a student check in on her."

The pets have also become an integral part of dorm activities.

Mackay-Smith says the raised two dogs in the Yard. And both pooches participated in all entryway events.

"I remember that when my dog was pregnant we had Peer Contraceptive Counseling come," Mackay-Smith says. "My dog sat right next to the PCC kids, but it was too late to do her any good."

Michael J. Middleton 87, assistant dean of first-year students, says raising his pooch Chelsea in his apartment in the basement of Hurlbut Hall has provided him companionship and a diversion from work.

"She gets about two hours of exercise [a day], and that's good time away for me," Middleton says. "When I gave her back to her owner, I put on weight."

Dogs on the Run

Some dog owners have criticized Cambridge's stringent enforcement of the leash law.

Currently there exists only one public area in Cambridge, Fresh Pond Park, where dogs can run without a leash. The Cambridge City Council recently tried to close this park to dogs.

Pedelty says she believes the leash law stifles dogs, both physically and socially.

"I've got a really long rope, but I would love a place in the city for a dog to run free," she says. "It's hard for dogs to make friends on a leash, and that's part of her problem socializing."

Bossert, however, says he supports the leash law because dogs could otherwise be run over by cars.

"We go out to the country [to run freely]," Bossert says. "Dog's can't run loose here; they'll get run over."

But Young feels dogs do not need to run free because they are trained animals.

"I would not like to have a dog who wasn't under control; they're not wild animals," he says. "Dogs don't really need to be raced about."

Councillor William H. Walsh says he has fought for a long time to support the rights of dogs.

"I have been a proponent of allowing dogs to run free," Walsh says. "[The councillors who tried to close Fresh Pond Park to dogs] were claiming feces was going into the pond, but these occurrences were few and far between."

E. Alfred Vellucci, former mayor of Cambridge, says that if current leaders of Cambridge were not "politicians," they would establish more dog-friendly areas.

"I don't think I heard anyone talk about dogs," he says, "but if they were not politicians they would. There should be a park in Cambridge called the 'Doggie Park' because dogs need exercise."

A Tutor's Best Friend

But Young added that he does not confide in Tizzie like other dog owners do.

"I don't trust her," Young says. "When you start confiding in an animal, that's a sign of craziness."

And Young says Tizzie is an even more discriminating connoisseur than the average Harvard student. Tizzy refuses to eat food from the Harvard Union dining hall and prefers certain "gourmet" treats.

"She takes her pills in roast beef," Young says. "She prefers Barsamian's roast beef, but she will eat Sage's. Super-market roast beef she's not particularly fond of."

And just like students, Tizzy enjoys spending her free time on Cape Cod, where he has a home, Young says.

"She is very anxious to get into the car when she knows we're going to the Cape," Young says. "She knows where her water bowl is there, and she knows the limits to the land."

But unlike Tizzie, Ellison says Jasper Typically consumes only dog food.

"He would love to eat Mather food, but we try not to allow him to eat it, "We prefer to keep him on stuff he was designed to handle."

Bossert says he takes Rusty, his golden retriever, for flights on his plane.

"He loves to fly," Bossert says, "and he ravels with me as long as we are not going to a meeting. He knows our plane."

Bossert says Rusty participates in the Phillips Brooks House pet therapy program, visiting a nursing home once a week.

"He's therapeutic," Bossert says. "Pets are very good in treating people with high blood pressure."

Mr. Ellison said raising a dog in an apartment building requires a lot of attention but does not harm the animal.

"You feel for the dog because you know they want to have lot of special treatment, though."

This special treatment includes taking Jasper to an unofficial "dog convention" each morning in the Leverett diagonal.

"There are eight to 12 dogs," Ms. Ellison says, "It's pretty strong. These dogs go out there and play, and the owners have become friends of ours."

But Mr. Ellison added that not all people enjoy the morning convocation.

"The [morning] group is semi-controversial," he says. "On occasion a dog has been known to barm, and there are students in Dunster and Leverett who complain."

Working Dog

Toby Brewster, a first-year proctor and an undergraduate financial aid officer, says he brings Whitney, his seven year-old yellow Labrador, to his office almost every day.

"I got Whitney when I was living in Maine, and it was a little tough [for her] to adjust to city life," Brewster says." That's why I brought her to the office."

Brewster says he has even added Whitney's role in the office to the official list of job descriptions.

According to the report, Whitney "serves as general lobby entertainment, and assists in stress relief and counseling for students and staff. Directs daily nutritional control survey by vising each office on a regular basis to sample tidbits from various lunches and/or snacks. Sits. Shakes. Rolls over. Wags tail."

Mr. Ellison says Jasper enjoys watching television, especially when he sees other dogs. "If it has a dog barking in it, he loves it," she says. "His favorite movie is Home ward Bound."

Mr. Ellison also says dogs at Harvard live a comparatively easy lifestyle compared to dogs he raised while growing up. "The life of a dog at Harvard is not bad," he says.

Unlike most students, Jasper gets a full eight to ten hours of sleep each night. Middleton said Chelsea enjoys watching anything with horses. "She likes anything with horses, for example, the rodeo on Wide World of Sports, "he says. "When the horses ended, she walked away."

Pedelty says her dog Calla enjoys eating sugar cookies from the Union and listening to the Cowboy Junkies.

"Besides dog food, occasionally she eats a union sugar cookie," Pedelty says. "She watch no television, but she likes jazz and blues and loves the Cowbody Junkies. I leave it on for her when I go."

Many of the dog owners say that raising their dogs at Harvard has made their dogs more intelligent.

Ms. Ellison says Jasper is a naturally smart dog, but being at Harvard has made him smarter. "Absolutely Harvard has made Jasper more intelligent," she says, "but he hasn't been to any classes. He goes to my office in William James [Hall], though."

Dr. Vincent L. Cyrus 83, a resident tutor in Matter House, says he studies with his dog "Chet is definitely more intellectual," Cyrus says. "There are no secrets with our dog."

Middleton says his canine companion "listens to National Public Radio and gets to sit in some interesting dorm conversations."

But Christina S. Griffith, assistant dean of first-year students, says the outdoors, not Harvard, has helped her pet most.

"He learned everything there is to know outside in the grass with the squirrels and the pigeons," she says.