Wagging farewell: Lafayette says goodbye to Lance, Hugo and Basie

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Lance, Hugo, and Basie will be leaving the college after a year and half of training in the dog house (Photo Courtesy Sydney Crowe ’19).

Jane Collins

Three familiar furry faces will depart the college by the end of the month. Lance, Basie and Hugo, the first canine residents of the dog house, say goodbye to Lafayette as their training at the dog house comes to a close.

Lance and Basie will return to Canine Partners for Life (CPL) on Oct. 27, while Hugo has already left for neutering and won’t be returning. The three black labrador retrievers were the first dogs in Lafayette’s living learning community dog house program, where a group of students live with and train puppies for the CPL program. The dog house will soon take in two new puppies expected to arrive in January.

CPL breeds dogs and sends them off for basic training for the first year of their lives to “puppy homes,” according to their website. The dogs then return for another year of intense learning with professional dog trainers so they can live with people with different medical issues that benefit from canine support. Lance, Hugo and Basie will hopefully go on to support people who suffer from epilepsy, diabetes, arthritis, ALS or a host of other medical issues and improve their quality of life.

The dogs were two months old when they moved to College Hill, and since then they’ve worked with students on “basic obedience and socialization,” according to Sydney Crowe ’19, one of the three student founders of the dog house.

Each dog has their own binder, filled with information about their health and dozens of pages dedicated to specific commands the dogs must learn and steps on how to teach those commands.

They’ve learned how to walk behind their trainer, how to place their paws on laps, to go to the bathroom on command and many others. When they return to CPL, they’ll undergo a test to see if they are fit to continue their training. If they don’t pass, they’ll become emotional support dogs or be available for adoption.

Hannah Chambers ’19 said that growing close with the dogs was inevitable.

“We’re not supposed to have favorites, but we all have favorites,” said Chambers, a dog house resident.

“You don’t realize how homey it is with dogs. It doesn’t feel like college. When they left in the spring it just felt weird. You get attached really fast,” Chambers added.

For Crowe, she and her parents bonded with Hugo when they had him at their home over January Interim last year. Crowe had lost her own dog the August prior, and Hugo helped fill that void for her and her parents.

Though the students are training the dogs, they have fun with them as well, resident Emy Strober ’20 said.

“Yesterday I had an air mattress in my room because my friend was visiting, and I was deflating it and Lance was watching. And he realized if he walked on it he could help deflate it so he was walking all over it.”

Hugo spent fall break with Strober, who recalls Hugo’s attachment to all toys, specifically her stuffed doll Olaf from Disney’s Frozen. “I just brought it back with me, and now they all love it,” Strober added.

The dog house was started last year after student initiative and organization from Mike Astor ’17, Crowe ’19, and Grace Veghte ’19.

“Grace and I were sitting in our dorm room freshmen year, talking about how Davidson College has as similar house. So we were like ‘We should do it.’” Crowe said.

They went to Residence Life and spoke to their Animal Voices FYS professor who directed them to Professor Bianca Falbo, who is a certified dog trainer. Along the way they realized that Mike Astor ’17 had been in the process of starting this Living Learning Community for about a year, and Astor was more than willing to have their help in finishing up the process.

The eleven Lafayette students in the program will be able to attend the dogs’ graduation a year from now, should they complete and pass their final training.