As a student studying on the pre-veterinary academic track, I needed to find a few extracurricular activities that gave me hands-on animal experience. But I am a human first and foremost, a human who loves spending time with dogs and misses spending time with his own at home. Soon into my Tufts career, I learned about a club that manages to fill both criteria: Animal Aid through the Leonard Carmichael Society.
A little background information: Animal Aid is part of an overarching community service organization called the Leonard Carmichael Society, which encompasses numerous other service clubs that aim to help the areas around Tufts University. In Animal Aid specifically, members are assigned to dogs that live around the area and then are asked to walk them during the times when their owners cannot. I was assigned to a wonderful two-year-old lab-mix named Daisy, and our adventures together have been the highlights of some of my weeks at Tufts.
There is something therapeutic about walking through the sleepy streets of the Medford suburbia with a four-legged friend. Certain aspects of the ambient environment that would ordinarily miss my conscience all of a sudden become a little more noticeable because Daisy notices them: a little bunny darting into a shrub for cover, a piece of someone’s lunch forgotten on the pavement, the slight murmur of a conversation a few doors down from where we’re standing. It’s as if I’m experiencing the world through Daisy’s eyes for a moment, and after a stressful few days of homework, exams, and clubs, entering a “here-and-now” state of mind is something I’ve come to appreciate.
Lately, Daisy and I have started frequenting a nearby park with a large open field. I always make sure to bring a ball so we can play something that sort of resembles fetch; it’s more so me running after Daisy as she darts around with the ball in her mouth. (One could justifiably say that I am the one doing the fetching.) For the first couple weeks, it would just be us at the park. We would have the whole field to ourselves and we were sure to make use of every last square inch of grass and mud. Soon, out of circumstance, we started running into a few other owners and their pups, every one of them starting our eventual conversation with the delighted inquiry of “Is that Daisy?” to which I would reply, “Yes, this is Daisy.” Tufts has its very own distinct culture and atmosphere, sometimes sharing a few aspects of such with the surrounding Medford/Sommerville area, but mostly maintaining a feel of its own. Though I’ve only been a student here for a few months now, I’ve started falling into the mentality that this “feel” is what everywhere else will be like, though, quite unfortunately, this is not true. Walking Daisy has allowed me to experience the town’s own identity from the welcoming hospitality of its residents. Over the course of my few months with Daisy I have met a few cute dogs and many incredible people who call this town a permanent home.
Certainly the most rewarding aspect of walking Daisy has been forming a relationship with her and her owner, Kim. When I first met Daisy, she was rather shy compared to how she’s warmed up to me. Now, as soon as I walk through the threshold of the door, I can hear her tail thumping out of excitement on the couch in the living room. With each step that I take, her thumping seems to increase until she sees me and hears me call her name, finally making her way off the couch to greet me in return. She’s gotten used to how clumsy I am with putting on her harness, making sure to patiently give me all the time I need. When we return from our walk, she’s adamant that I stay just a little longer to give her all the company she wants. Of course, her owner Kim is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met in my entire life, truly embodying the aforementioned hospitality of the Medford/Sommerville area. Every week, Kim leaves, often homemade, treats for Daisy’s walkers to enjoy, something that let’s myself and Daisy’s other walkers know that we are appreciated.
Walking Daisy through Animal Aid has not only left such a positive impact on my mental health, but has also allowed me to give back to this wonderful community in a way that I enjoy dearly. What better way to get to know the community and its people than through its dogs?