About two weeks ago, I was sitting in the DUC sipping on a latte when suddenly my pants’ pocket started vibrating! “Oh, it’s my cell phone,” I realized. I picked it up, and my friend mysteriously told me to wait outside the DUC and that he would pick me up with a special surprise waiting in the backseat. I walked outside with a quizzical expression and soon spotted the silver SUV waiting near the curb.
As I neared the vehicle, I noticed the back window slowly rolling down only to reveal a furry brown head poking out and looking eagerly around.
“What?!” I yelled at my friend, and he just smiled back and let Lester (that furry brown dog) do the explaining. I jumped into the backseat to sit with Lester, a light brown terrier mix who filled me with nostalgia as he licked my face and reminded me of my loving Chow Chow back home.
You dog lovers out there might be wondering how I managed to nab such a sweet dog on the Washington University campus. Lester is one of many available dogs via a program called Stray Rescue. The Stray Rescue organization facilitates a kind of pet renting: Individuals essentially host a pet for a weekend —giving a homeless pet the love of a nurturing home for however long the volunteer can manage.
The program is free and easy. The biggest obstacle is getting downtown to pick up the dog. Food, bowls, leash, toys, blankets and crates are all provided free of charge to pet-renting volunteers.
Stray Rescue is a nonprofit organization that hosts dogs indefinitely when local shelters run out of room. Although the dogs never get put down, they also do not really get the experience of having a family while they are kept at the shelter. The people at Stray Rescue are incredibly loving and kind to the dogs, however. Their first priority is making sure the dogs are as happy as possible.
As one of the volunteers at Stray Rescue explained to me, as long as Lester is happy and I am willing, I could take him home each weekend. But Stray Rescue is wary of animals becoming too attached to host families, so they do set a limit.
One thing that might get in the way of Wash. U. student participation is the living situation. Luckily, my friend has a dog-friendly apartment, but even if your landlord or residential hall does not permit dogs, you might consider asking about a one-time-only dog sitting.
I should warn you, though, that a one-time experience might quickly snowball into a deep and undeniable canine love. Five days after returning Lester to Stray Rescue, my friend and I reconvened and realized that both of us had been thinking about him all week long. We have since decided to get him every weekend, and have both independently considered the plausibility of him fitting unnoticed in our luggage on our trips home for the winter.
Find out more about Rent-A-Dog at http://www.strayrescue.org.