Life at WFU with furry friends

From helping out with a certain condition — mental or physical — to the pure companionship they offer, dogs bring smiles to the faces of the lives they touch on campus


Aine Pierre, Assistant News Editor

Ella and Magpie Virkler

While many students were still in school early this spring, freshman Ella Virkler attended a two-week program designed to match those in need of service dogs with a helpful pooch.

“I got out of school for two weeks…I was there with two other diabetics and there were four dogs that we could be matched with.”

The dogs were trained to sniff for low blood sugar levels in those with Type I Diabetes. If the blood sugar becomes too low, a dog will alert their human so they can rectify the situation and not suffer the dangerous consequences of a low level. 

“It’s hard for me to wake up for a low blood sugar [level] so she helps me by letting me know, alerting me, making sure I’m up and getting what I need … she catches things ahead of time so I don’t get to a dangerous spot,” Virkler said. 

Virkler explains that it was not so much that she chose to bring home Magpie; actually, it was quite the opposite. 

“It very similar to a ‘wand chooses the wizard’ thing … I was the person she paid the most attention to during the training, and when it was a one-on-one, a dog could come up to you to play, and she always came up to me,” Virkler said. 

On campus, Magpie is a hit amongst Virkler’s friends and teammates. 

“Everyone loves her, I’m on the club lacrosse team, they joke sometimes that she’s the mascot of the team,” Virkler said. 

Magpie also loves lying in the ZSR Library and playing fetch on the quad.

Aine Pierre / Old Gold & Black

Shelby, Lauren and Ethen Horth 

Ethen Horth (a yellow labrador) was supposed to be a service dog, but after failing his training, he became a different kind of support to his student companions, freshman Shelby Horth and senior Lauren Horth. 

“We ended up adopting him … he failed out of training because he was a little rambunctious. We’re trying to keep him well-behaved, though,” Shelby said. 

Ethen primarily stays with Lauren off-campus, as she is the one who adopted him three years ago as a freshman. However, there are times when Shelby gets to take care of him.

“Whenever [Lauren] has classes off-campus or she’s out for the weekend, she leaves him with me and I still bring him if I have any clubs or any in-person classes, and I’ll bring him to the dining hall, too,” Shelby said. 

Ethen, while not a service dog in-training, is now registered as an emotional support dog, so he can go anywhere but the ZSR Library with Lauren and Shelby, to whom he provides indelible mental health boosts and incredible joy.

Ethen’s favorite thing to do is to swim in Reynolda Village or to eat the free slices of pizza that employees give him at Zick’s.

“They’re so sweet to him [at Zick’s]. They ask about him if I don’t bring him with me,” Lauren said.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Horth

Mary and Chica Troy

Chica Troy is a half-Boxer, half-German Shepherd that Mary Troy adopted in August to take with her to college. The pair lives in an off campus neighborhood with other seniors.

Mary adopted Chica to address some of the loneliness that comes with mostly online learning.

“I definitely thought it would be super difficult to have a dog in college, but with the online experience it’s definitely nice to have a pet and it’s definitely easier … it’s definitely worth it if you’re a pet person,” Troy said.

The Troys enjoy playing with each other on the tennis courts.

“I close the door so she can run around freely on the tennis courts,” Troy said.

Troy says that Chica has helped her mental health considerably this year.

“I feel like especially with online school, if I didn’t have a dog, I wouldn’t ever leave my house, but now I have a reason to go on long walks,” said Troy. 

As shown in the picture to the right, Chica and Troy are enjoying the lovely fall weather by taking a walk around Upper Quad. 

Photo courtesy of Mary Troy