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Megan Handle and her dog Juniper on College Green at Ohio University on Wednesday, March 22, 2023. Juniper is a Pitbull mix rescued from the Purebred Rescue Organization of Ohio, and a service dog in training.

OU students talk about their furry friends

Spring has officially sprung. Dogs stroll alongside their owners through College Green, while cats sunbathe in window sills, curiously watching birds and squirrels.

Yesterday, March 23, marked two paw-some holidays, commemorating pets everywhere: National Puppy and Cuddle a Kitten Day. People love their pets and Ohio University students are no exception. 

Megan & Juniper Handle

Megan Handle, a junior studying social work, adopted 3-year-old Juniper last February from Purebred Rescue Organization of Ohio. Prior to her adoption, Juniper spent two weeks at London Correctional Institution in Madison County, Ohio as a part of their inmate dog training program.

As a puppy, Juniper was a victim to animal cruelty, leaving her with nerve damage in her face.

“She has a little crooked face and a winky eye,” said Handle.

Despite a rocky start, Handle has lovingly nurtured, trained and spoiled Juniper.

“She’s basically like a human baby,” Handle said. “Her favorite treats are cheerios and bananas and string cheese. She’s obsessed with cheese.”

When bribed with a cheerio, Juniper shows off her many talents. She shakes hands, rolls over, spins in a circle, waves and even gives hugs. Juniper is also a trained therapy dog with the ability to perform deep pressure therapy

“I treat her like she’s a real kid,” said Handle. “Everyone thinks she’s a human because she is just very expressive. She knows what’s up.”

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Jeff Wells watches his dog, Bobo, as he observes people walking by Court St Coffee in Athens, Ohio, on March 16, 2023

Maggie Bennink, Pepper & Poppy

A little over a year ago, Maggie Bennink, a senior studying history and classics and world religions, and her roommate found two kittens in their backyard. They named them Pepper and Poppy. 

Now, the two cats are a common sight around OU’s campus, sitting perched on human shoulders.

“My favorite part about bringing them places is people's expressions when you walk past them,” said Bennink. “Just like, ‘there's a cat on that person's shoulder.’ It's really funny.”

To a stranger, the two cats look identical, but once one knows the pair, their personalities differ drastically.

“Pepper is more clingy, cuddly,” said Bennink. “Poppy likes to do things on her own time.”

Bennink explained that having two cats is like having children that can be left alone for the weekend.

“They're great and annoying and I love them,” said Bennink. “It's been really fun just watching them expand into their personalities.”

Clay & Hugo Lewis

Last summer, Clay Lewis, a junior studying chemistry, decided he was ready to take on the task of caring for a dog. Lewis started the process of looking for a pup and about a week later, he met Hugo.

He describes Hugo as a “mixed breed mutt.” He is just over a year old, weighing about 50 pounds with short, stubby legs. 

“He’s a puppy,” said Lewis. “He’s got a lot of energy, and he loves other dogs.”

To put that energy to good use, Lewis and Hugo frequent the dog park and go on regular walks. Hugo also enjoys running up and down the steps of Lewis’ townhouse.

Since adopting Hugo, Lewis has learned many lessons about patience and the responsibilities of being a pet parent. 

“In the very beginning, I was always very worried about everything that he was doing at every point in the day,” said Lewis. “And now, I’m like, ‘he still has all four limbs, and he’s fed. We’re good. Everything is fine.’”

Melanie pets her dog, Mattie, during a walk around College Green, Ohio University, Ohio, on March 16, 2023

Baleigh & Luna Mcnerlin

For her 21st birthday, Baleigh McNerlin, a senior studying communications, was surprised with a Corgi puppy named Luna. Last year, McNerlin’s mom, dad and brother showed up for a visit with a box in hand.

“I open it and it’s the dog leash and the collar, and I’m like, ‘What is going on?’,” said McNerlin. “And then my brother comes out of the back seat of the car, holding my dog.”

McNerlin admits that at first, she was intimidated by the tasks that come with taking care of a new puppy, but Luna soon became an intricate part of her life, displaying personality and quirks. 

For example, Luna’s favorite chew toy is a plastic clothes hanger, which she often gets stuck around her head.

“She’s just silly,” said McNerlin. “She really likes cheese. She really likes cranberries. She’ll eat anything. She eats rocks.”

Today, Luna is just about a year old.

“She’s the love of my life,” McNerlin said, smiling.

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Baleigh McNerlin poses with her dog, Luna, at River Park Apartments on March 23, 2023.

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