More than a dozen pets and trained working animals call Notre Dame their home or place of work. Meet the dogs, cats (and fish) of campus.
Ziggi, born in spring 2020, is still a puppy and weighs less than 10 pounds. The miniature schnauzer belongs to John and Karen Deak, a faculty-in-residence couple who live in Dunne Hall. Ziggi moved into Dunne in June and served as the youngest member of the Welcome Weekend Crew in late summer.
Ziggi sleeps until about 7 a.m., when she wakes up for her morning constitutional walk to Starbucks. On her way home, she often encounters and greets Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC, ’76 and ’78M.A.
“After that, it’s a bit of playtime and then a long nap in her crate while Karen (academic advancement director for the Office of Research and the Idea Center) and I work at home,” says John Deak, a history professor. “At lunch time she’s up again and it’s another walk around East Quad, where she often gets to say hello to the Dunne and Johnson Family (Hall) residents.”
The Deaks’ apartment has a patio, where Ziggi keeps them company while they work or relax in the warmer months.
“Now and again, she gets to say hi to our residents, typically breaking all sorts of social distancing rules,” John Deak says. “She likes to jump up like a seal and say, ‘Pick me up,’ so she can lick faces and nibble on ears.”
Rebel is a trained service dog for senior Emily Eagle, who is legally blind. He’s five years old, and became Eagle’s constant companion shortly before she enrolled at Notre Dame.
Rebel “has changed my life in the best way possible. He helps me get to my classes, meetings and hangouts with friends,” Eagle says. The black Labrador retriever’s favorite place to walk is around the campus lakes.
Eagle, who is a Howard Hall resident assistant, educates people she meets about the difference between a pet and a trained service animal. “Rebel is an accommodation to my disability. That is his primary purpose,” she says. Rebel isn’t a pet, she explains. People who encounter the pair shouldn’t distract the dog by petting him, talking to him or even making eye contact with him.
“He’s a working dog. It’s important to have that distinction,” Eagle says. “I’m an extension of him, and he’s an extension of me when he’s working.”
She calls Rebel her best friend.
Biff, a ragdoll cat, is four years old and weighs about eight pounds. “What she lacks in size she makes up for (in spades!) in attitude,” says her owner Angie Hollar, rector of Breen-Phillips Hall. “Biff is a total diva and lives for attention and adoration, which the residents gladly supply.”
Biff spends her days napping and people watching. “My apartment overlooks North Quad, so during the day she snoozes on the back of a chair and watches (students) socialize. I also have a window in my bedroom that is right next to one of the main entries to BP, and Biff likes to lie there and watch BP residents come and go,” Hollar says. “Residents always look for her in the window when they enter or exit the north door.”
Biff isn’t permitted to leave the apartment because of residents who may have allergies. During campus COVID-19 restrictions, students haven’t been able to enter the apartment to pet and play with Biff.
“Luckily, I have a screen door, though, and the screen has a little hole in it, so students stick their finger through and pet her nose. It is the cutest,” Hollar says. “She sits right at the door, her face pressed to the screen, and watches everyone pass by. When they talk to her, she usually meows back.”
The two-month winter break was challenging for Biff. “She lives for the attention she receives from the students,” Hollar says.
Milo is a boxer mixed with American Staffordshire terrier (pitbull), with a beautiful brindle coat.
“He is four years old but has the energy of a four-month-old puppy,” says his owner, Duncan Hall rector Nhat Nguyen. The rector adopted Milo as a pup from relatives who weren’t able to care for a dog.
The dog and his owner walk on campus every day about 8 a.m. “We pace the same route every morning: Down around St. Mary’s Lake, up to the Holy Cross Cemetery, straight to the Grotto, then from the Main Building to South Quad and back,” Nguyen says.
Most of Milo’s interactions with hall residents occur when Duncan men stop by the rector’s office or apartment. Some residents take Milo on additional walks or runs on campus. “I sometimes take him on duty rounds with me around the hall and guys are always happy to see him,” Nguyen says. “Milo’s favorite pastime is running up and down the hallway, being playfully chased by hall residents, chasing a ball or being called.”
Louie is a two-year-old mini Goldendoodle (mix of poodle and golden retriever) who lives with his owner, Emily Orsini, rector of Pasquerilla West Hall. On a typical day, Louie and Orsini take a morning walk around PW.
“Louie is pretty chill throughout the day and likes to take many naps. Louie loves to come hang in my office and enjoys looking out my screen door in my apartment to welcome the women of P-Dub when they are in the lobby area,” Orsini says. “If I am on duty, Louie will occasionally come on rounds to say hello to the women." Louie will typically go on one or two walks per day and has play dates with other pups on campus.
Louie has a sister dog, Callie, who lives in Welsh Family Hall. The two love to get together and play.
Louie is an extrovert, loves to cuddle and is a huge fan of all things peanut butter. “He loves people so living in P-Dub is a dream come true,” Orsini says. “Louie is a huge Irish fan and loves to show his Notre Dame spirit.”
Two-year-old Callie is owned by Carol Latronica ’77, rector of Welsh Family Hall. The two usually start their day at 9:30 a.m. with a walk, stopping for morning coffee at Einstein’s, the coffee and bagel place in the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore. Callie serves as emotional support for others in line.
In the residence hall, Callie loves to lie by the screen door and wait for residents to come by to say hello. In the afternoon, Latronica and Callie go for a long walk on campus, often around one or both campus lakes. Sometimes they walk inside the hall to allow students to take a break and pet Callie.
Callie’s brother dog, Louie, lives in Pasquerilla West, and they often meet up for play dates.
“Callie loves living with the 270 individuals, going for walks, watching the squirrels (not understanding why they don’t want to play), visiting Roger the Morris Inn valet and being on Notre Dame’s campus,” Latronica says.
Elly and Blackberry
Blackberry and Elly were born in late April. The pair of kittens mostly stay in the apartment of their owner, Amanda Springstead ’11, rector of Johnson Family Hall, but once or twice a week Springstead hosts a “Cat Cafe” in her office. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, it is appointment only and participants adhere to the campus protocols.
“I have a gate outside my door to allow the kittens to go out to visit the students when I have my door open,” Springstead says. “They have quickly learned to climb and jump that gate, so my residents can attest to the fact that there have been many iterations of this gate!”
Springstead had a dog named Lola, who died last spring. “About a month later, these kittens showed up at my mom’s house and their mother was nowhere to be found. We waited in hopes she would return and care for them. However, they were severely underweight and only about four weeks old. So I started raising them until I could find them homes,” Springstead says, but then she decided to keep them.
“They are very friendly kittens who really love people. They love to sit at the gate and play with the students or get treats from students as they pass by my apartment. They like to listen to the marching band practice from my apartment window,” Springstead says. “Most of all they, like all cats, love to interrupt Zoom meetings by tackling my computer screen.”
Jackson is a rescue dog, about seven years old, a black Labrador and retriever mix. He’s lived with Carroll Hall rector Eric Styles for more than three years.
“Jackson is very food-oriented,” his owner says. “He’ll do anything for a treat.”
The dog is jet black and weighs about 65 pounds. Styles describes Jackson as a hunter, wanting to chase after squirrels and groundhogs, so he’s kept mainly on a leash. The pair go for a two-mile walk around campus every morning.
Jackson is usually excited to see other campus dogs. He and Callie, the mini Goldendoodle who lives in Welsh Family Hall, spend a lot of time together because their owners arrange joint walks.
The men of Carroll Hall enjoy Jackson and give him lots of attention. “He expects to be petted,” Styles says. “He’ll bark at them until he’s petted.”
Rev. Christopher Kuhn, C.S.C. ’71 and ’76M.A. has cared for pet fish since his childhood growing up in Ohio. Today he maintains one 10-gallon and two five-gallon fish tanks in his room at Fatima House and a five-gallon tank at the Holy Cross Province Archives Center, where he serves as the director.
Kuhn’s fish are freshwater varieties. They include several ryukins (a type of goldfish), as well as neon tetras, bright orange platies and zebrafish. He has about 16 fish. One of his ryukins died in December, and he plans to replace it with another ryukin.
He changes the water every two weeks, and cleans the tanks about once a month. That and feeding once or twice a day is all the maintenance they need.
“I find fish very relaxing to watch,” Kuhn says. “They don’t require a great deal of care.”
Lady is a cockapoo (cocker spaniel and poodle mix) whose name honors Notre Dame (“Our Lady”). The pup will turn a year old on January 31. She’s owned by Sara Thoms ’18M.Div., who is rector for the undergraduate community at Fischer Graduate Residences and also will serve as rector of Farley Hall for the spring semester.
“Lady will spend time with both the Farley community and the undergraduate community in Fischer Graduate Residences,” Thoms says.
A typical day for Lady includes a brisk morning walk around campus, napping while Thoms is participating in Zoom meetings and regular trips outdoors. She’ll bark at anyone she doesn’t know, but wants to meet or wants to pet her.
“In the afternoons (in the warmer months), Lady can be found on our patio, anxiously waiting for some residents to walk home from class to pet and play with her. She even makes an appearance at our Hall Council!” Thoms says. “In the evenings, her favorite place to go is to the dog park along the East Bank Trail (in South Bend), where she has many friends she sees on a daily basis.”
Lady enjoys treats and bones, playing fetch and licking people’s faces (or masks).
“Lady is curious, spunky and full of moxie! She can sometimes be scared of tall men with hats, orange construction cones or loud sounds,” Thoms says. “She loves squirrels and jumping in the (Clarke) Memorial Fountain in the heart of campus.”
Fenigan was born last February, so he’s nearly graduated from the puppy stage. The corgi’s owner is Christian Smith, a sociology professor who lives in Baumer Hall as part of the faculty-in-residence program.
“He loves attention and rough play. He loves to jump high for toys held up, to tear cardboard and paper bags into shreds, and to sniff everything possible everywhere,” Smith says. “Baumer is a new dorm and I only just moved in in August,” he says. “Fennie was happy to be part of the move-in of students, loved scratches from them and their families.”
The strong-willed Fen is friendly with humans, but not especially friendly toward other animals and wishes he could chase the ones he sees. “Corgis are bred to herd cattle. They love to chase and herd,” Smith says. “But Fen is, of course, always on a leash, so can only run so much.” The dog provides a welcome diversion and good therapy for hall residents.
“The Notre Dame campus is a paradise for dogs, at least during decent weather,” Smith says. “The lush grass, endless sidewalks and walking around lakes are any dog's dream."
Toxi and Skeet
Toxi and Skeet became the first K-9 members of the Notre Dame Police Department in 2017. They live with and are cared for by their handlers: Notre Dame police officer Jarett Gilpin (Toxi) and Notre Dame police officer Anthony Clark (Skeet).
The black Labrador retrievers are specially trained to detect explosives and work in active, high-traffic areas. Accompanying the officers, they often work athletic events, pep rallies and other large gatherings on campus.
Toxi is four years old. At home, she loves to go on walks and play with Gilpin’s children. Toxi’s personality is sweet and loving, but focused when she’s on the job. “She gets really excited when it’s time to go to work,” Gilpin says. “At home, she likes to lay around a lot. At work, she’s at attention.”
Skeet is six years old. At home, he lives and plays with 10 other dogs owned by Clark and his wife. On campus, Skeet is ever alert and aware he’s on duty. “When he’s at home, he’s a lot calmer,” Clark says. “That’s his down time.”
The two dogs and their handlers often work shifts together. “When they see each other, they immediately run toward each other,” Clark says.
Because Toxi and Skeet are trained working animals, while on duty they wear black vests bearing the message “DO NOT PET” so they won’t be distracted.