By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer
Eastern New Mexico University’s pair of live mascots will live in a campus apartment with two students and be cared for in the Agriculture Building during the week days.
According to a university news release, the greyhounds stay with “Hound Families” when the student caretakers go out of town.
On weekdays, “Hound Handlers” and the members of the Pre-Vet Club are expected to see to the dogs’ needs and take them to events.
Master’s student in counseling Gilbert Valdez and junior in graphic design, Dallas Ellsworth, also student body president, have committed to live with the dogs.
“I am just excited to bring them into our community and our campus, just very excited to bring joy and happiness to our school and actually have living mascots for once,” Valdez said.
Valdez said he wanted to take care of the greyhounds because he thought he would do a good job of providing them with a safe and nurturing environment. He has cared for two basset hounds in the past.
Valdez said he and Ellsworth have discussed the dog care thoroughly, and he referred to the living situation as a family.
Judy Paulsen of Greyhound Companions of New Mexico said she didn’t think the arrangements were adequate because the dogs needed a “forever home” rather than moving from caretaker to caretaker.
“It’s not really a home environment unless it’s a permanent home,” she said. “All they’re doing, they’re basically treating these dogs like rental furniture. These dogs are living beings, sentient beings, and they need to be treated like a family member.”
Vice President of University Relations Ronnie Birdsong said Ellsworth and Valdez would study at the university for another year and a half. After they graduate, she said, the greyhounds will live in the same place with different roommates.
Birdsong said four or five families in Portales have volunteered to take the dogs during vacations or weekends if Valdez and Ellsworth go out of town.
“That way we’ll make sure they’ll stay in a home and not go to a kennel,” she said.
According to the news release, ENMU is still accepting applications for Hound Families.
Because the room designated for the dogs in the Agriculture Building hasn’t been remodeled, Birdsong said, the dogs will stay in an office cleared out to hold only their belongings.
She expects to go through Hound Handler applications to choose up to six Friday.
“Excellent students applied,” Birdsong said.
The handlers, Valdez and Ellsworth will go through training before the dogs arrive in early December, she said.
Birdsong said planners wanted the greyhounds to stay on campus, and she believes they’ve found the ideal place and students in whom they have a lot of confidence.
When planners called other schools with live canine mascots, she said, all of those dogs lived on campus.