POOCH coleader Sylvia Guadamuz walks one of Oxford's foster dogs.
It’s a Dog’s Life at Oxford
Oxford College sophomore Sylvia Guadamuz 07OX had a hard time leaving her dog, Figo, when she returned to college from her home in Costa Rica. But it helps that she gets to walk Oxford’s foster dogs, Moe and Maxie, around campus whenever she wants canine companionship.
“I’m a dog person,” says Gaudamuz. “It’s really relaxing to walk these two. It’s a benefit for the dogs and the students.”
POOCH (Pets of Oxford Community Hotline) a student-run foster dog program, is the most popular club on campus, with sixty members who take turns feeding and exercising the dogs, cleaning their pens, and accompanying them on adoption weekends to PetSmart.
“Everyone loves visiting the dogs,” says Kathryn Murphy 07OX from Snellville, Georgia, who took in a Boston terrier mix through POOCH last year. “Oreo, my adopted dog, is really sweet. She’s a lot more mellow now that she’s settled into a home.”
The program began four years ago when Sandi Schein, director of Oxford’s counseling center, found a stray puppy on a set of railroad tracks and brought him to campus with the hopes of finding a home for him. Two students helped to care for “Buddy,” and the idea for POOCH was born.
Fellow animal lovers Gayle Doherty, associate professor of physical education and dance, and Beth Perry, a local veterinarian who performs low-cost spaying and neutering, also help with the program. “It takes a village,” Doherty says, smiling, as she stands beside the “POOCH Palace” that her husband, Jim, a craftsman at the Carter Presidential Library, designed and helped students build behind Williams Gym. The grey storage shed has igloo-style doghouses and an attached fenced-in yard, complete with a picnic table and deck. Paw prints are painted on the floor and walls.
About ten dogs have been adopted through the program so far, which receives funding from the Student Government Association and private donations. Two is the limit on POOCH pups, but as soon as one is adopted, another takes its place. The dogs—which must be under three years old, gentle, and of a nonviolent breed—come from Pound Puppies ’n Kittens, a local animal rescue organization cofounded by Perry.
Doherty often sees students walking the dogs in pairs. “It’s a great way for shy students to connect,” she says, “first to the dogs, then to each other.” Several events have sprung up around the club, including Pawfest, to which faculty and staff bring their own dogs, and an end-of-the-year POOCH picnic.—M.J.L.