Yellow journalism

Rachel Alexander

Earlier this year, junior Sarah Dawson found herself feeling lonely and wanting more physical intimacy. Though students in this position have traditionally sought relationships or hook-ups to fill the void in their lives, Dawson turned to a solution that’s becoming increasingly common on the Whitman campus: adopting a Golden Retriever puppy.

“Fluffy and I share a bond that goes deeper than words,” said Dawson. “He can tell when I’m lonely and always wants to snuggle while I’m working on papers.”

Dawson’s story anecdotally illustrates the latest research from the Society for the Promotion of Collegiate Happiness (SPCH). According to SPCH president Jack Henderson, Golden Retriever puppies have been scientifically shown to boost dopamine levels in college students, giving many people a “rush” when they interact with the animals.

Henderson estimated that nationwide, about 25 percent of college students have experimented with Golden Retriever puppies, either as a substitute for, or in addition to, a human relationship. According to the results of a Pioneer survey, 27.4 percent of Whitman students have had a Golden Retriever puppy at some point during their time on campus. Shockingly, the remaining 72.6 percent said that they would like to have a puppy at some point in the future.

“As more and more students turn to puppies to relieve their need for affection, the practice becomes socially normalized,” Henderson said. “The best research now indicates that the puppy trend will soon take over every college campus in the United States.”

This trend is of concern to Resident Life staff, because students are not allowed to have pets in college residence halls. Residence Life Director Sally Perez encouraged students who might be tempted to acquire a puppy to seek out other sources of happiness in their lives.

“Many students have found that other warm things, like sunshine and daffodils, produce results comparable to owning a puppy,” she said.

Senior Edgar Brown said that he used to have a Golden Retriever puppy, but had to get rid of it because of the problems it was causing.

“Lulu would wander around my house and make faces at my housemates just so they would pet him and cuddle with him. It got to the point where no one could get any work done, because Lulu was always there asking to be played with or taken for a walk,” said Brown.

The Whitman Counseling Center is in the process of creating a support group for students afflicted with Puppy Withdrawal Syndrome (PWS). According to the Director of the Counseling Center Annika Clark, this group will provide students with a safe space to interact with puppies.

“Students joining our support group will have the ability to cuddle with a litter of Golden Retriever puppies for up to an hour,” she said. “We anticipate that this will be able to effectively manage PWS symptoms and keep students happy so that they can focus on their schoolwork.”

For some students, though, nothing will substitute for a real puppy.

“Fluffy and I have a relationship that is far more important than my classes or my thesis. I plan to keep taking him for walks and posting videos of him sneezing on YouTube until I graduate,” said Dawson. “Well, unless I get a boyfriend. But come on, this is Whitman.”