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The Secret Life of Scripps Pets: Stories of Companionship and Community

Belen Yudess ’25
Staff Writer

There is no better way to start off the day than looking into the eyes of a furry friend. Whether you’re having lunch on Elm Tree Lawn or heading into Tiernan for a morning workout, there is always a high probability of seeing (and hopefully being able to pet) one of the many dogs or cats on campus. Although there are many benefits of having a pet on campus, according to many Scripps pet parents, the grrrrreatest ones are companionship and community.

Ella Sophia ’23 can be found every morning at 6 a.m. walking her service dog Hattie, a confident, loving, and excited Havanese poodle. Sophia and Hattie have been a dynamic duo since June 2020. Upon their arrival at Scripps, the two of them enjoy visiting the Upland dog park and walking around the Pomona campus since there is always a tennis ball or two in it for Hattie.

Besides being an adventure buddy, Hattie has also helped Sophia focus on her own self-care and mental health. “It’s really nice to have someone to take care of because it forces you to take care of yourself,” said Sophia. “Without Hattie, I have a hard time going outside every day, I have a hard time taking care of myself and getting up in the morning. With Hattie, I have to take care of her and I will always put her needs above my wants… That’s my baby girl.”

Abigail Gothard ’23 agrees that their soft, kind, and lovable domestic long hair cat Sigmund shares a similar purrrrpose for them. “The best part of having a cat on campus is having a constant companion, someone who needs your attention and care,” Gothard said. “Sigmund reminds me every day that I need to take care of myself in order to take care of him. He’s also very soft and a great cuddle buddy!”

Sigmund is one of the more recent members of the Scripps pet community, but has already established a name for himself via his Instagram account (managed by Gothard), @5csigmund. The page features his on-leash adventures around the different Scripps dorms. “He loves to explore the browsing rooms!” Gothard said.

This platform has also inspired others to reach out to Gothard in order to meet Sigmund and experience his meowstanding personality for themselves. “Sigmund is a very kind cat and [is] always ready to meet new people,” they said. “My friends like to joke that he’s our emotional support cat.”

Hattie has also garnered much attention during her time on campus due to her fluffy fur and energetic demeanor. But before you adorn her with all your love, please be aware that she is a service dog first. “I understand that she’s really cute and people want to pet her,” said Sophia. “But it’s just always nice when people ask, especially if she has her vest on.”

Not only have the pets of Scripps reminded their parents to prioritize their own well-being, but being on campus has also allowed pet parents to help their four-legged friends become the most pawsome versions of themselves.

Stella Kahl ’23 is the mother of Lottie, a self described goofy, snuggly, and chaotic chihuahua doxen. She has seen improvement in Lottie’s socialization since their arrival on campus. “Every time I go on a walk, we see another dog that she [Lottie] knows and she’s gotten so much more comfortable with,” Kahl said.

Kahl adopted Lottie off of death row in February from a shelter in Wichita, Kansas. Due to her hectic past, Lottie was a very anxious puppy, but her relationship with Kahl has allowed Lottie to come out of her shell. “She very much relies on me and… I relied on her too. And she knows that… She’s so special to me. I love her so much,” they said.

Now, Lottie enjoys spending her days interacting with other dogs such as fellow chihuahua doxen mix, Rooster. Rooster belongs to Julianna Deibel ’23 who describes him as weird, excited and attached. Similar to Lottie, Rooster also has bouts of anxiety, which made the transition to Scripps difficult for him.

“He was definitely anxious at first,… just like being around so many people,” said Deibel. “I was just living at home. So he didn’t really interact with [people]… The first week here I had a work training. So I had to have my friend watch him. He escaped from her and ran all the way back to my apartment. He struggled at first here for sure. He is just very attached to me.”

Since then, Deibel has introduced Rooster to other dogs and people on campus. Although Rooster may be a little skittish with people, Deibel encourages people to come up and try to pet him! She notes that some of her favorite moments with Rooster have been watching him interact with other dogs on campus. “Over these past few months… seeing him run around with Haddie and Bowser [another dog on campus] is really sweet or just anytime I’ve gotten to see him play with dogs,” Deibel said. “There’s another dog who lives at CCA, so we’ll have little play dates in one of our apartments and it’s totally sweet.”

Even though having a pet on campus seems like the cat’s meow, it can certainly be ruff at times. “It’s definitely a responsibility…. [On] Saturdays you can’t just go party outside all day and never come back to your room,” said Kahl. “Even when you’re being a college kid, you have to be responsible and still structure and schedule your day around it. Like taking her outside, getting her exercise, making sure she’s eating at regular times.”

Having a pet on campus requires responsibility, forward thinking and constant preparation and adjustments, something Sophia Drezner ’23 is getting a head start on. Drezner is in the process of adopting Shane, a pitbull terrier mix. A friend of Kahl’s, Drezner has been learning from an experienced dog mom on how to turn her dorm into a puppy friendly home for Shane.

“I’ve been ‘puppy proofing’ my dorm room and suite. This means putting food away, making sure the trash is clean, and not having loose items around that a puppy could chew on or destroy,” Drezner said. “I also have a training plan to create an everyday routine for my puppy.”

Although there is a lot of individual work to be done when caring for a pet, the Scripps pet community is a tight knit group that is always there to lend a paw or words of wisdom to any current or future pet parent in need. “Taking care of a pet doesn’t have to be a solo act — one of the great parts about having a pet on campus is that there are many people that are close by to help you take care of your pet,” Drezner said.

Deibel shared this opinion, and expressed gratitude over how her friends and girlfriend have played an active part in ensuring Rooster’s happiness. “I have friends that will go and hang out with him,” said Deibel.

All pets are different and so is every pet parent. If you are thinking of adopting an on-campus pet, Sophia suggested doing your research and listening to the advice of those around you. “Make sure you find the right dog for you though. Cause not every dog is perfect for every person. Even if they’re really cute, that doesn’t mean that they’re the right dog for you,” said Sophia. “And also shelters know their dogs really well. And if they don’t think that the dog will suit you, listen to them.”

Deibel has similar advice, noting that knowing your pet is key to establishing a healthy relationship with them. “I think if anyone is, you know, doing the research and thinks having an ESA be good for them, in the right circumstances, I definitely recommend it. It’s really helpful,” she said.

Gothard pointed out that having a pet on campus also means being aware of others. “My advice for other pet owners is to be respectful of your neighbors and your community on campus,” they said. “I know that not everyone loves cats as much as I do so I try not to be intrusive, I don’t let Sigmund wander the halls by himself or anything.”

Becoming or being a pet parent is not always a walk in the park, but there is no better reward than the joy brought about by a furry friend. “The biggest advice that I can give is that it’s definitely a responsibility, but I would never describe it as a chore,” said Kahl. “If you have to get up 30 minutes earlier to take one quick walk before doing something, it might be hard, but the minute you step outside, you never regret it.”

Image Source: Julianna Deibel ’23 (left) and Stella Kahl ’23 (right)

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