A leashless dog ran through Dunn Meadow past other puppies and the students playing with them. IU student Katie Speer sprinted close behind with the leash dangling from her hand. Casey, a 5-year-old Miniature Pinscher, had slipped out of her harness and raced to play with the other dogs.
The second annual Rent-a-Puppy was Thursday afternoon in Dunn Meadow. Students paid $5 for a half-hour playdate with dogs from the Bloomington Animal Shelter.
Speer said she came to Dunn Meadow to unwind from the stress of dead week, but the beginning of her half-hour puppy session was much more exciting than she expected. Casey had escaped her leash earlier in the day as well. After catching the dog and tightening its collar, Speer said she enjoyed playing with Casey for the rest of the session.
“It’s definitely a good break, because I’ve been studying the past couple days and it’s a beautiful day out,” Speer said.
She was hoping for a 2:30 p.m. time slot, but the event was popular and all 15 puppies had been spoken for by the time she arrived at Dunn Meadow. Instead, she walked to Dunn Meadow with a friend for a 2 p.m. timeslot, directly after taking a final exam.
“I’ve always had a dog growing up, and now I live in an apartment where we can’t have pets,” she said. “I miss having a dog around. We thought it would be a great opportunity to play with shelter dogs.”
Although some students might have wanted to adopt puppies immediately after renting them, the Bloomington Animal Shelter has to ensure the dogs go to a responsible home. The shelter requires potential pet owners to fill out an application and go through adoption counseling to be matched up with the perfect dog or cat.
“People are meeting the dogs here and go to the shelter to adopt them,” said Emily Herr, the shelter’s outreach coordinator.
The organizers added a new feature this year, a Puppy Kissing Booth, where students could pay one dollar to spin a wheel and win one, three or five minutes of hugging time with a dog. This feature was not available for the full afternoon because the dog was the pet of one of the organizers and not donated by the shelter.
Funds from the event were split between the Bloomington Animal Shelter and student organization Lutheran Campus Ministry at IU, said event organizer Maureen Savage.
To ensure the dogs’ safety, students were asked to leave a photo ID with the shelter volunteers as collateral at the beginning of their session, said Jeff Schacht, Campus Minister of the LCM. This was meant to prevent students from leaving with the puppies, he said.
Savage successfully led Rent-a-Puppy for the second year in a row. She said LCM and the Bloomington Animal Shelter jumped at the chance to repeat the program after last year’s success.
“It’s great as a stress reliever for the students because we do it right before exams so people can come unwind,” she said. “It’s great for the dogs because they’re all shelter animals, so this gets them socialized.”
Savage hopes Rent-a-Puppy will become an annual event, and said Thursday of dead week seems to be the optimal time for it based on student response.
“So many folks wish they could have dogs here. If you’re living in a dorm or apartment you just don’t have that opportunity,” she said. “If you’re missing your dog at home, it’s great to come here and hug someone else’s dog for a while.”