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Tag: students

Making a mountain out of a … poop bag?


Vanderbilt University may well have some racial inequities worth addressing. And some racist acts may take place on campus from time to time. But Marley’s poop was not one of them.

A sack of dog poop left on the front steps of Vanderbilt University’s Black Cultural Center — discovered the day after a student demonstration to show support for protesters at the University of Missouri — was quickly decried by a student organization as a “vile” and “racist” act.

In reality, the bag was left there by a blind student who cleaned up the mess left by her guide dog, Marley, but could not find a trash receptacle to place it in.

On Monday, about 200 Vanderbilt students staged a walkout over campus race relations — one described as a show of support for the Missouri students, but also held to draw attention to Vanderbilt’s own problems when it comes to racial imbalances.

On Tuesday, the bag of feces was found in front of the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center.

Backers of a university campaign called Hidden Dores, the mission of which is to “draw attention to the racial and ethnic minority experience on a predominantly white campus,” quickly placed a post on Facebook decrying the deed.

“The Hidden Dores team is appalled to announce that our demonstration yesterday was met this morning with a vile act. This morning someone left a bag of feces on the porch of Vanderbilt University’s Black Cultural Center. The center has served as the nexus of many aspects of black life on Vanderbilt’s campus since its inception 31 years ago. The violation of a place that in many ways is the sole home for black students is deplorable.

“As many of us sit in grief, recognize that these types of actions are what we speak of when we note the reality of exclusion and isolation of students of color and specifically black students on our campus. This act has hurt many and will not be received lightly. We will not allow for the desecration of the place we call home. As we announced yesterday and reaffirm today, we will not be silent.”

Campus police launched an investigation immediately. After surveillance camera footage was reviewed, officers contacted the student who appeared to have left the bag of feces there.

“The investigation found the bag was inadvertently left by an individual with a service dog who was authorized to be in the building who could not find a trash can near the entrance and did not wish to take the bag inside. VUPD has concluded, based on their investigation, that there was no criminal or malicious intent in this action, and the investigation is considered closed,” Vanderbilt News reported yesterday.

The blind student posted her own account of what happened on Facebook:

“I would like to inform everyone on this campus that no racial threat occurred. I am a blind student on this campus with a guide dog. I was meeting with a group last night to go over our debate for one of my sociology classes. My dog did her business outside on the grass and I picked it up and put it in a bag like always … I did not want to bring the feces inside and make the building smell, so I left it outside by the door … Everyone is going to point me out now as the blind girl who left her dog feces by the black cultural center. I am sorry that I do not know where all the trash cans are on main campus…”

Leaders of the Hidden Dores campaign put a new post on its Facebook page, apologizing to the blind student, and for reacting a little too swiftly.

“Given the recent elevation in polarization on this campus in the aftermath of our silent protest this Monday, evidenced by tough personal exchanges and anonymous targeted posts, it was too easy for us to believe that a member of our community would stoop low enough to maliciously leave fecal matter at the Black Cultural Center,” the Facebook post said.

“Nonetheless, we apologize to the Vanderbilt community for jumping to conclusions and for any personal trauma caused by the quick escalation of this situation.”

(Photo: Hidden Dores Facebook page)

Service dogs help make a special prom night


Prom night wasn’t on the agenda for seniors Delaney Johnson and Nick Ackerman.

The two teens, both with disabilities, go to different high schools and hadn’t even met until their service dogs — in a way — brought them together.

Nick, who has a service dog named Troy, was interviewing Delaney, who has a service dog named Griffin, for a school video project on service dogs.

Making small talk, she asked him, “Are you all geared for prom?” When he told her he had no plans to go to his, she volunteered to go with him. He accepted.

With their service dogs along, they attended his school’s prom, then hers.

A Lansing State Journal columnist and photographer went along — and you can find their story and video here.

Delaney, 17, goes to Haslett High School, where, before she got her 2-year-old Dutch shepherd Griffin, she would faint or pass out up to 20 times a day due to narcolepsy.

Between medication and help from Griffin, that condition — and a second neurological condition called cataplexy — have been brought under control.

Her dog acts to distract her if she’s experiencing anxiety and, in case of an attack, he’s trained to stay with her, lying on top of her if she becomes incapacitated so that she feels protected.

“Since I got Griffin, I’ve not had any major cataplexy attacks at all,” said Johnson, a singer and songwriter who plans to take Griffin with her this fall to attend Grand Valley State University. “…He’s my own personal little bodyguard.”

prom3Nick attends Forest Hills Central High School in Grand Rapids, where he’s a champion debater. His service dog Troy helps Nick, who was born without arms, do everything from carrying things to zipping up his coat.

Nick, who plans to attend Eastern Michigan University in the fall, met Delaney two weeks ago, when he interviewed her for a class project on service dogs and the subject of proms came up.

On May 2, they went to his prom. Last Saturday, they went to hers.

The columnist and photographer accompanied the foursome — from home, where they posed for family photos, to a sushi dinner and then to the prom itself.

“I was going to stay home and eat ice cream and watch movies,” Delaney said later. “I’m just so glad I went…It was an amazing time.”

(Photos by Matthew Dae Smith / Lansing State Journal)

When a feel good story has feel bad results


A heartwarming little story in the University of Rhode Island student newspaper — about a janitor who brings his dog to work — has apparently led to a cold-hearted response by administrators: Ivy must go.

Mike LaPolice, who keeps Peck Hall clean, started bringing  Ivy to work with him soon after he adopted her a year and a half ago.

The Siberian husky followed LaPolice, who has worked for the university for 25 years, as he performed his duties at the dormitory, and she quickly became popular among students, who enjoyed petting her and taking her picture.

LaPolice got Ivy certified as a therapy dog — though in reality she was probably bringing students comfort and relieving their stress even before she got her degree.

Then, last Thursday,  The Good 5 Cent Cigar, which is the student newspaper,  ran a story  about the janitor and his dog.

Almost immediately, LaPolice received word from the university’s Department of Housing and Residential Life that — if he wanted to keep his job — his dog needed to leave the campus and not come back.

“Nobody will tell me who has a problem with Ivy,” LaPolice told the student newspaper in a follow-up piece. “All of the … staff that I’ve talked to keep referring to some person who doesn’t like her being here, but I don’t know who that is.”

Even before Ivy got banned from campus, LaPolice was aware his dog’s presence was a concern among some administrators. That was part of the reason he got her certified as a therapy dog. Dorm residents knew the dog was an issue, too. Last year they presented a petition to school officials, urging she be allowed to stay in the residence hall.

But for the past seven months, the issue seemed to have subsided, and it appeared school officials were willing to overlook Ivy’s presence in the dormitory, which, technically, is a violation of school rules.

Somehow, the newspaper story reignited the drive to remove Ivy from campus.

“I’m trying not to regret running this piece, because we never could have anticipated this outcome,” the newspaper’s editor, Allison Farrelly, said in an interview with ”I feel sick about it though, that we could have played a hand in negatively impacting not just this man’s life, but the lives of all the students Ivy touched.”

“It still doesn’t make sense to me that HRL could have reacted so strongly to our article, but I don’t feel defeated yet because I don’t think we’ve done everything we can to right this. I told my staff this, but I think there is a good chance if the student body gets behind our reporting, we can right this.”

LaPolice told the student newspaper he might talk to his doctor to figure out if he can be permitted to keep Ivy with him because of a medical need.

“I’ll go to a psychiatrist if I have to,” he said.

Another petition is being talked about among those students who want to keep Ivy in Peck Hall — many of whom say they’ve benefited from her presence.

The Department of Housing and Residential Life issued this statement yesterday:

“Staff members of the University’s Department of Housing and Residential Life became aware of an employee bringing a dog to Peck Hall late last summer. Since that time, housing staff has met repeatedly with the employee to ask him to leave the dog at home. The University does not permit its employees to bring their pets to work, unless they are service animals.

“While we understand the bond students may have formed with an animal brought into their residence hall, the University must consider the precedent that this sets and the welfare of the entire community, including potential liability in the event of a dog bite and issues around sanitation, pests and allergies.

“There are avenues for addressing employee accommodation requests under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the employee was referred to Human Resources for that process. To date, Human Resources has not received an official request from the employee for accommodations under the federal law.”

There are no reports of Ivy biting anyone, provoking any allergic reactions, or bringing any “pests” into the dorm.

Instead, students say she has brought comfort and cheer.

“In September, a relationship that I was in came to an end and hit me pretty hard with the feels,” said one. “Ivy jumped up on the couch and laid down next to me with her head on my chest because she could sense that I was upset.”

“On a particularly tough day, Ivy wandered into my office and just put her head on my leg,” said another, who serves as a resident assistant at Peck Hall. “How could I possibly stay focused on such negativity in my life with that beautiful, loving dog looking right up at me?”

(Photo: By Donald Reuker / The Good 5 Cent Cigar)

Dog earns spot in middle school yearbook


Here’s one 7th grader we’re pretty sure didn’t complain about his yearbook photo.

Taxi, a Lab mix, is pictured right next to Rachel Benke. He’s her service dog, and he’s trained to alert her and school staff when he senses a seizure is coming.

The Northside Independent School District in San Antonio decided Taxi deserved a spot in the middle school year book.

A golden retriever-Labrador mix, Taxi was being trained to be a guide dog, but he failed to graduate due to a tendency to chase cats, KMTV reported.

Instead he ended up with Rachel, who has suffered from epileptic seizures since birth.

Her mother, Theresa, says the dog accompanies her daughter everywhere, and that Rachel’s life completely turned around after meeting Taxi four years ago.

Last year the family joked that Taxi should get his picture in the yearbook too. This year the school made it happen, with Rachel and Taxi appearing in the yearbook as they appear almost all the time — side by side.

Kegstanding leads to animal cruelty charges

kegstanddogIf there’s one thing I’ve learned in my decades of writing about the two species, it’s that dogs keep getting smarter while humans seem to be going the other direction.

Last week we told you about the New York tattoo artist who decided his dog needed to be inked.

This week we learned that two college students in New York introduced a dog to the practice of kegstanding, or drinking beer from a keg while being held upside down.

File both stories under the category of people inflicting their own dopey and uniquely human behaviors on dogs.

The two 20-year-olds, who we’ll call Dumb and Dumber, posted a photo online of the dog being forced to kegstand.

Being college students, they were smart enough to do so anonymously. But one was wearing his College of Brockport T-shirt, which led authorities to  that institution, where it took little time to track down the party boys.

“Through a joint investigation between the SUNY Brockport Police, the Brockport Police Department and the Sweden Dog Warden, it was learned that a dog was held upside down, and apparently forced to consume beer from a keg during a party that occurred on Saturday March 8, 2014 at a house located on Monroe Avenue in the village of Brockport,” police said in a news release.

Shane Oliver, of Bergen, and Robert Yates, of West Seneca, were ordered to appear in Sweden Town Court next month to face charges of torturing and injuring an animal, according to the Post-Standard in Syracuse

They are both enrolled at the College at Brockport, part of the State University of New York (SUNY).

Brockport police said Oliver is the person pictured holding the dog, and that Yates took the photo and posted it.

The event occurred off the Brockport campus, authorities said.

The dog, a black Labrador retriever named Mya, belonged to someone else. She was taken by the local dog warden and is in good physical condition, according to the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester.

The tweet was sent out from @SUNYPartyStories, a Twitter feed devoted to chronicling how hard hearty SUNY students party.

We have no problem with those who want to decorate their own skin with ink, or imbibe until they can no longer think straight. That’s every stupid human’s right. But keep it to your own species, boys.

Pit bull wins national “hero dog” award


Elle, a 5-year-old pit bull who helps children become more confident about reading, has been named the 2103 Hero Dog by the American Humane Association.

But it wasn’t just her listening skills that won her the honor. She also helps teach children about dog safety, and overcoming prejudice and stereotypes – “something a pit bull knows too much about,” the association noted in announcing the award.

The therapy dog and her owner started a reading program called “Tail Wagging Tales”  that helps students at two North Carolina schools — Vaughan Elementary in Macon and Chaloner Middle School in Roanoke Rapids — become stronger readers. Students take turns reading out loud to Elle for 20 minutes.

“She provides confidence for students and a comforting ear,” Leah Brewer, 42, told

Elle and the other finalists for the American Humane Association award attended a ceremony Saturday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. It will air as a 90-minute special on the Hallmark Channel on Oct. 30.

After a six-month natonwide search, 141 dogs from across the country were nominated. More than one million Americans cast votes for the eight finalists online. Those results, along with the choices of a panel of celebrity judges and animals activists, were combined to determine the winner.

Among other nominees were Carlos, an explosive detector dog who worked in Iraq and Afghanistan; John D, a rescue dog who uses his scenting capabilities to detect cancer in patients; Cassidy, a three-legged dog who visits rehabilitation centers to comfort children with disabilities; and Lola, a rescued guide dog who connects her deaf owner to the surrounding world.

“Choosing a top dog is difficult because they are all so terrific, but we are proud to announce Elle as the top American Hero Dog for 2013,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association.

“As an organization that for years has fought breed-specific legislation (BSL), we are also pleased to honor a breed that has been often been unjustly maligned. We hope that Elle’s story will help to underscore the many tremendously positive qualities of this breed.”

(Photo: American Humane Association)

Counseling students, one lick at a time

There’s a new counselor on the staff at Loyola University in Chicago, and he’s helping students cope with everything from homesickness to the stress of final exams.

He’s a 5-year-old black Labrador retriever, named Tivo, and he’s on duty every day at the university’s Wellness Center.

Seeing a need for a therapy dog, Loyola last year asked Tops Kennels in Grayslake to help find a candidate. The kennel suggested Tivo, who, after some additional training, became a certified therapy dog.

He’s on duty from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m, and lives with the Rev. Justin Daffron, Loyola’s associate provost for academic services.

Already immensely popular with students, college officials expect Tivo to stay busy in the week ahead, the Chicago Tribune reports. Final exams start today at Loyola, and Tivo has a way of helpling students, at least for a moment, shed some of the stress that builds up.

“They’ll come in, pet him, he’ll wag his tail, lick their faces, if they want their faces licked,” said Joan Holden, associate director of the center. “If you’re a dog lover, being with a dog makes you feel better. He’ll show his tummy, wag his tail — all the things to make you feel good.”

But Tivo doesn’t just sit in an office all day, according to an article about him in Inside Loyola.

“We use Tivo with patients for calming, for outreach in the residence halls, and to be sent out with a human counselor in hopes that students can come and pet the dog as a way to connect with the Wellness Center outside the office,” says Diane Asaro, the center’s director. “It is our first time trying it, and he has already gotten such a positive and wonderful response.”

Tivo also serves as a surrogate pet to the many students who are missing the dogs they left behind, noted David deBoer, associate director and clinical psychologist at the Wellness Center.

“Tivo really serves as a comfort, pleasure, and joy for college students; a friendly reminder of the comforts of home,” he said.

Students can keep track of where “Talk With Tivo” sessions are being held through his Facebook page.

(Photo: Tivo gives some counseling to student Marc Rosenbaum; by Mark Beane / Loyola University Chicago)

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