Photo courtesy of Katie Reeves.
You just survived your first week of classes for the semester. You are exhausted. Syllabi are overflowing from your folders; your backpack is stuffed with new handouts, shiny textbooks, and still mostly-blank notebooks. You’re looking back wistfully to seven long days ago, when you were still at home, when you could wear pajamas all day and eat home-cooked food. Life was simple back then, good.
It is a lovely, sunny Sunday afternoon — but you’re in the library, already feeling the stress of the next week looming like an ugly, leering monster. You miss your family, your house, and your dog. You decide you cannot stand to be in Cornell another minute; you get up and walk to Parrish to check your mail (although you know it will be in vain: the mailbox is gapingly empty). But as you turn to leave, you hear voices coming from Parrish Parlors. Never before have you seen more than three people at a time in Parrish Parlors (except maybe during orientation, but dazed parents don’t really count).
You approach, cautiously, suspect of the sounds and bustle. But when you turn the corner, you are greeted by an astounding spectacle. Your heart beats quickly as you stop on the threshold to take in the scene. Could this be real? Students are sitting in a big circle on the floor. They are all smiling — not one of them has any work or even a computer out. In the middle of the circle: dogs. Three beautiful, wonderful dogs. Volunteers holding their leashes guide them as they make their rounds, licking hands and faces, climbing in laps, spreading smiles as they go.
You slide your backpack and coat off, and carefully join the circle. The students there happily make room for you; there is enough dog love to go around. A big mass of black fur and wiggles bounds your way, and suddenly you are greeted with sniffs and wags and kisses. You can’t help but grin as you begin to give out pats and belly rubs.
You look around you, at your peers to your left and right. They are laughing; they look carefree and young. They chat to the volunteers or each other, absentmindedly, always directing at least half of their attention to the dogs. The volunteers laugh as well, at the dogs or at the students’ reactions to them. They hand out treats and smile as students eagerly distribute them (they are not above buying their way to the dogs’ hearts). The dogs dutifully gobble up the food and reward their benefactors with licks and wags. One lies down on the floor, asking for pets; another tries to climb onto the couch.
It is chaotic, but peacefully so, and you feel calm. The heaviness that has been building up since you got back seems to have been lifted, somehow, by the antics and affection of these dogs. They make you think of your own dog back home. But this time, the homesickness does not hurt. You smile to yourself, thinking of your pet, thinking how he would love all of this attention and love and all of these treats, and the thought of him is happy.
Of course, there comes a time to go. You have work to do and meetings to which you must be seven minutes late. Other students have come, and you get up to give them room. You put your coat and backpack back on, and the books don’t seem quite as burdensome as they had before. You look through the doorway one last time to see the pleasant scene: the dogs, still going from person to person and the students excitedly watching them, reaching out to pat them or offering their hands to be sniffed.
You turn and leave Parrish, smiling as you walk out into the sun.
I would like to dedicate this article the Heath, Lacy, and Cheddar, who made my Sunday so much better; to the volunteers at Providence Animal Shelter; to SGO for making their visit possible; and last but not least, to my dog Cody, who is currently recovering from an ACL injury.