Students cuddled and frolicked with puppies from the Bloomington Animal Shelter in Dunn Meadow on a chilly afternoon in the midst of dead week.
Thursday was the sixth annual collaboration between the shelter and the Lutheran Campus Ministry. Kenna Welch, a freshman member of the ministry who helped orchestrate the event, said it served a dual purpose.
“I think one of the reasons we did it with the shelter is because we wanted to benefit a cause and not just fundraise,” Welch said.
For $5 students turned in their IDs in exchange for 20 minutes with their designated puppy. The ID component was to ensure people wouldn’t walk away from the event with their assigned dog.
Welch said the money will primarily go toward funding the ministry’s operations and philanthropy at IU.
Some dogs were small enough to fit in a hand, while others were too big to carry. Welch said none of the dogs were older than 2 years old, and depending on the breed, they either had food names, like Jam, Mango and Chutney, or “people names,” like Sonny and Cher.
Rent-a-puppy events are not uncommon at IU during dead week, when students need to de-stress from writing papers and studying for final exams.
“This is kind of why we do it now,” Welch said. “The students get a break from their assignments.”
She said given the possibility of rain the group had to come up with backup plans in case it was too cold outside or the ground was too muddy. Because of the cold weather, some students cradled the smaller puppies in blankets or sweaters, or sat near the metal water dishes scattered across the grass. The attendees were encouraged to run around with their leashed dogs in addition to carrying them.
Emily Herr, the shelter’s outreach coordinator, said some of the dogs were strays while others were relinquished by their owners.
“Shelter dogs are just the best dogs,” Herr said. “They’re dogs that need homes. They’re dogs that need socialization.”
Some students rented the dogs in groups and others appeared to come alone. Many lost track of time and forgot their time slot had ended. They had to be reminded to return their puppies, and most took the opportunity for some selfies.
Talia Fleshler and Rebekah Gerbick, both freshmen, played with six-week-old Schmear, a female border collie mix. Fleshler beckoned the dog with, “C’mere, Schmear!”
The two said the week hadn’t been too stressful for them so far, but final exams and papers were in their future. They had attended another unrelated puppy-focused event Tuesday on the Indiana Memorial Union’s patio.
“It makes you happy and appreciate little things,” Fleshler said.