Dogs, Cats, Snails, and More—BU’s Pet Stories
Our special photo essay captures students, faculty, and staff and the animals they love
Fitness trackers, Spotify playlists, gluten-free foods, cannabis treats—these are some of the ways we treat our pets nowadays. It’s easy to say it’s gone too far. Way too far. But then you read recent studies, like one that says childhood exposure to dogs can help with psychiatric disorders later in life or another that says pet owners are healthier and more physically active, and you think, nah, pets are awesome.
With that in mind, BU Today photographer Cydney Scott reached out to members of the Boston University community, asking them to share stories about their pets. These are some of our favorites.
Paula Langton and Quinn
Quinn is a constant reminder to tell your friends you love them and that life is short. He’s taught us a lot about slowing down and appreciating the day-to-day. I’ve always wanted a dog but my husband and I, both being actors and teachers, never thought we had the lifestyle. When a friend called to see if we could take her dog while she went to the ER to get a scan, we said sure. Her scan was January 3, 2019, and she passed away on January 19 of stage four lung cancer. So I ended up inheriting my friend’s seven-year-old dog they call a schnoodle. Having him is like having a piece of my friend, and he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I don’t know how I ever lived without him.
Elise Lim and Alfredo
I have an almost two-year-old male hedgehog named Alfredo. I got him in March 2019 when he was just seven weeks old. He’s a bit scared of strangers, but very affectionate towards me. He always sits next to me while I’m working and oftentimes falls asleep right next to my hands, using them as his personal pillow. His favorite snacks are boiled eggs and chicken. He’s also very stylish: he has many different types of hats. He’s given me lots of emotional support during my stressful PhD life and I’m very thankful for him.
Ekaterina Yakimkina and Baloo
Baloo is almost three years old. All my life I have been a dog person and really enjoyed being around them. However, three years ago I was attacked and severely bitten by a dog. It was a horrible experience, and for the first time in my life I was afraid of dogs, large or small.
I realized there was only one way for me to overcome this dog phobia: to start getting to know them all over again. This is how Baloo became part of our family. We’d had a Chinese shar-pei before who was a rescue, so we knew that was the right breed for our family.
When we went to choose a puppy, Baloo did not catch our attention right away. While all of his brothers and sisters were jumping and fooling around, he was quietly sitting aside and observing us. First, he poked my husband, Vasily, in his leg until he took him in his arms. After a while, he approached me and started to chew on my sweater. That’s when we knew that he was the one.
Despite his size and strength (shar-peis are very strong), Baloo is very gentle. He loves our daughter, Veronica, more than anyone. He shares his toys with her and allows her to cuddle with him and touch his ears and paws. Now that we’ve had Baloo for nearly three years, I have almost completely lost any fear of dogs. He shows us every day how caring and loyal dogs can be.
Melanie Kirsh, Becca Ganey, and Fig
Fig is special, and not only because he’s a little guy (three pounds). My partner, Becca, and I recently moved into a two-bedroom apartment so Fig could have more space. We made the second bedroom his space and put a desk in there for us to work on homework. When we can supervise him, we let him roam free around the apartment. He loves apples and dandelion greens, especially when they are hand-fed.
Yujia Zuo and Noodle
I got my hamster over the summer. He was very spooked at first, and I learned that when you get a hamster at a pet store, sometimes they’re not domesticated, so they have to get used to being around humans and being handled by them. He’s still getting there, but he’s better every day. Having Noodle really showed me how hamsters can have different personalities. My last hamster was extremely cuddly, and I was expecting that when I got Noodle. But he’s still getting used to being around me. He runs on his wheel at night for hours because he’s nocturnal and hamsters in the wild run for miles every night.
Kirsten Kuhn, Nicole Kutteh, and Jada
My girlfriend Nicole and I have a two-year-old sphynx cat named Jada. While her hairlessness is one of her unique defining characteristics, her personality is what makes her special to me. Sphynx cats typically get a bad rap and are painted in the media as absurd and aggressive (I’m thinking specifically of a Friends episode), but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Jada is endlessly playful, affectionate, cuddly , and a bit mischievous. She is super attuned to our emotions and always knows how to cheer me up if I’m having a bad day or feeling sad by sitting on my chest and purring.
Paige Kelly and Petunia
I have a pet mouse named Petunia, who I got from a student at a white elephant gift exchange over Christmas in 2018. She was definitely the strangest white elephant gift I’ve ever gotten—but she’s turned out to be a great artistic muse, as I love painting and drawing animals and she looks just like a Beatrix Potter character. I’ve been wanting a dog forever—I have a Boston terrier who lives at home with my parents—but a mouse has been surprisingly good as something to care for in an apartment that doesn’t allow dogs.
Editor’s note: Petunia passed away January 1, after our interview with her and Paige.
Diego is an affectionate fellow who loves to cuddle, especially by crawling up into my lap when I’m trying to read the morning paper. He still gets excited by his morning and evening meals, spinning in energetic circles as soon as my wife or I open the food vault. Diego has a shoe fetish: he always greets visitors by grabbing a shoe to show off. Fortunately, he’s (mostly) past the stage of chewing them up. And he is already a seasoned traveler, journeying with us across Newfoundland and Labrador in our little trailer. This will be good practice for him when I retire this spring, as we are planning a road trip to northernmost Canada in the summer of 2021.
He’s sort of named for the Mexican actor Diego Luna. Like most goldens, he’s a loving and happy soul who just happens to think everyone should drop whatever they’re doing to admire him.
Evan Kuras and his snails
I have a few pet snails, probably 10 or so, that are adorable and special. I did my undergrad at BU, and my very first pet snail, Snaily, was a gift from my girlfriend, Molly—she found Snaily on Comm Ave and put him/her (snails are hermaphrodites) in a Tupperware container for me. This was in March 2014. I cared for Snaily for a while, then handed him/her off to my mom while I was traveling and working after college. She was a kindergarten teacher and quickly incorporated Snaily into her curriculum.
Snaily passed away in 2017, but not before my mom found him/her a new friend, named Friend. Molly and I have been caring for Friend since my mom retired, and this past year we were blessed by two “teenagers,” followed a few months later by dozens of little baby snails. I don’t think the teenagers were offspring of Friend or Snaily—they probably came in through some dirt we added to the tank—but that is a point of contention. Friend passed away recently, and we took the opportunity to release some of the little snails back into the wild, keeping just 10 snails, including one of the teenagers.
Toria Rainey and Billie
Baby Billie Christmas (Billie for short) was given to me in 2018 as a Christmas present (hence her name), and since then, she’s been an incredible emotional support. I first got her when she was only six weeks old, so having bonded with her from such a young age, Billie is really in tune with my mental health. When I’m struggling, she’s quick to offer extra cuddles and kisses.
Grace Kirkpatrick, Michelangelo, and Kazemir
I adopted Michelangelo and Kazemir a year ago, and they have made my good days great and my bad days infinitely better. Waking up early can be hard, but having two adorable hungry faces greet you every morning certainly makes it easier (and a necessity). Their personalities have been especially entertaining to get to know over the past year—Kazemir loves to explore, but is a bit of a picky eater, while Michelangelo loves any and all food, but is not necessarily the brightest bulb in the world. After all is said and done, I really can’t imagine not being a guinea pig mom now.
Neus Codina and Cooper
Cooper came into my life soon after my previous English cocker spaniel died of cancer. When I first laid eyes on Cooper, at five weeks old, I realized he was smaller than the rest of his litter—he was the runt. My Cooper has always been special. At nine weeks, he developed an uncommon type of hernia that required immediate surgery. After two weeks in recovery, a second hernia popped up and he went into surgery again. Once again, he fought and recovered. He is resilient, stubborn, but always eager to please. Cooper is a trooper, which is why I love him so much.
Tania Mazariego and Java
Java is the funniest little dog. He acts like a human, always requiring (and getting) a seat at the dinner table. I make him all of his meals, but he is a very picky eater and will not eat anything he doesn’t like. He absolutely loves bell peppers, so whenever he hears me chopping a pepper he runs over and paws at my feet until I give him a piece. Java is a big napper. If my alarm rings too early in the morning, he sits on me so that I can’t get up and we can keep on sleeping. I am so grateful to have him around.
Cailey Tone and Echo
Echo was given to me by a friend who hatches, raises, and rescues reptiles. Echo was a hatchling from two of the leopard geckos she’s had for a while. I had adopted an older, sickly leopard gecko from her a few years ago, but once she passed away and I was looking for another buddy, my friend offered me one of her hatchlings.
Echo is a rainwater albino leopard gecko. I find that he has a human-like personality: he’s very aware of me and my presence and he’s very social. Every day when I come home, he’ll come out of one of his hiding spots and watch me as I move around the room. He does the same thing every morning when I get up.
If I don’t take him out of his tank right away he will actually stand up against the glass on his back legs and look at me as if I don’t give him enough love and attention. When I do take him out, he likes to walk around and explore, finding high places to climb up and look around, as if it’s his kingdom. What makes him so special is that unlike most reptiles, he will always come back and lay down on me after he’s finished exploring. He really is the sweetest gecko with the most unique personality.
Kali Wade and Dot
My partner and I adopted a greyhound last January from the Massachusetts nonprofit Greyhound Options Inc., and we think she’s beautiful. Her name is Dot, and at the time of her adoption she was two and a half years old and had spent her life racing in Florida. Since her time with us, she’s transitioning well to retirement, which includes lots of couch cuddles, chasing a ball in Harvard’s fenced baseball fields, and treats for tricks. She’s the first pet that’s truly mine (I grew up with childhood pets, but the responsibility level is so different), so she’s really helped me navigate the waters of being a young adult.
Jetta Rackleff and Ioan
I am the proud owner of a Russian blue cat named Ioan (pronounced Yohan) who thinks he is a dog. He will go on walks, play fetch, and greet you at the door. He was rescued by my cousin, who runs a shelter in Ohio. When found, he was duct-taped together with five other kittens in a cardboard six-pack beer holder, the only one still alive when discovered.
Initially I fostered him, but I had to keep him once we met. He has served as my emotional support animal through my busy schedule and history of trauma, and I have vowed to keep the little guy safe after his rough start to life. He loves my hockey bag, is more photogenic than I am, and has lived through surgery to remove a toy mouse from his stomach.
Selvin Marroquin and Scruffy
I’m a part-time School of Public Health student, and I also work full-time at the School of Medicine anatomy and neurobiology department. I adopted Scruffy in 2017 after he was displaced from his previous home by Hurricane Harvey. At the time, he was very sick and not expected to live more than a few months. He was very anxious when he first moved in with me.
Now he is a happy, healthy, loving dog. I wish I could communicate with his previous family and let them know that he is fine, that he is loved, and that he’s gone on many adventures since he came into my life.
Sorcha Martin and Maeve
After falling off my previous horse and breaking several vertebrae and ribs, my family staged an intervention to influence me to give up that horse. About a year after my accident, I found Maeve. I bought her because she loves to jump: she’s a horse that gives me so much confidence jumping over fences. She loves the job. She’s safe, she’s fun, she makes good decisions.