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Tales from a puppy kindergarten dorm volunteer

In season two, episode two of the Northern Irish comedy “Derry Girls,” the character Mrs. De Brún is introduced. A fiery and passionate English teacher, she inspires her pupils to new creative heights through a healthy curriculum of hitting things with bats, cigarettes and wine parties. In one of her first scenes, Mrs. De Brún reads the class’s poetry submissions aloud — more than half of them are about dogs. The class is uninspired, boring! For Mrs. De Brún, that’s unacceptable. 

Well, I guess I would fail Mrs. De Brún’s class because this is unfortunately an article about a dog. More specifically, Dunn. He’s the oldest of the five students at the Duke Puppy Kindergarten this semester, and he’s super easy to recognize — he’s the only yellow pup of the bunch. What’s most important, though, is that I love Dunn. 

Dunn’s got a big future ahead of him: one day, he’ll be a dog with a job. Once he turns two years old and his training is complete, he’ll be an assistance dog with Canine Companions, helping someone with a disability by performing a whole range of tasks, from doing the laundry to turning on lights to pulling wheelchairs. But until then, he’s with me. 

Dunn


As one of his dorm volunteers, I take care of him on nights and weekends when he’s not at school. Along with the other three people on my team, I make sure he gets all the ingredients for a happy and healthy puppy: plenty of extra socialization, training and exercise. All this means that we spend a lot of time together — I’ve got plenty of time to get to know him far too well. 

While I do spend a lot of time taking care of Dunn, he does far more for me than I do for him. Beyond the obvious cuteness the tiny joyful bundle of fur provides his surroundings, there’s the overwhelming sense of positivity all around him. When we walk around campus, faces universally start to smile — so many people come up to me and tell me that their day has been made after only a 30-second interaction with the little cheese puff. Plus, with so many people coming up to meet him, sometimes I get to meet new people too! 

And when I add in all the little, tiny moments that make me love about Dunn, you start to have the complete picture of how amazing Dunn is. Whenever we start a walk, he drags his feet, refusing to leave a place that he enjoys, be that my dorm or the puppy kindergarten — or a spot on the quad near a squirrel. On the other hand, by the end of the walk he’s suddenly in a brisk trot, ecstatic at the opportunity to return back to those same beloved places. When it’s time to eat, he does these mini-tiny hops, unable to contain his excitement at the thought of food! In his sleep, he gets those typical dog dreams, running to some unseen place and chasing some unseen thing (again, probably a squirrel). Also, crucially, he responds when I sing Beethoven’s Fifth, which is really a cornerstone of a good relationship with anyone named Dunn.

Most of all, though, Dunn just makes me happy. He doesn’t care if I’m stressed out, bored or upset, he just constantly has an unending fount of cuteness and love (and bites — he’s a mouthy teething puppy, after all). Whether we’re running up and down the hall or eating dinner on the Chapel steps, Dunn is there with me. When he leaves in November, sure, I’ll have more time for myself, but at the end of the day, I’ll really miss his companionship. But Dunn has a bright future ahead of him, and I’m incredibly happy we’ve had the opportunity to be in each other’s lives briefly. 

I’ll admit, this wasn’t the most insightful staff note by any means. Maybe Mrs. De Brún was right — there isn’t too much of anything interesting to say about dogs. But at least Dunn is cute. And anyways, by the end of the episode, Mrs. De Brún turned out to not actually care about her students (or their dog poetry), leaving for another school without any warning, so maybe it really doesn’t matter after all.

-Jonathan Pertile, culture editor 

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