Puppy love

MC to stage pet fair/fundraiser

Maryville College students Mary Brafford, left, and Amber Gray spend some time with Rufus, one of the few pets living on campus. As a fundraiser for the Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation, Gray and Brafford are organizing a “Pup-a-palooza” pet fair at Maryville next month.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Maryville College students Mary Brafford, left, and Amber Gray spend some time with Rufus, one of the few pets living on campus. As a fundraiser for the Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation, Gray and Brafford are organizing a “Pup-a-palooza” pet fair at Maryville next month.

Rufus gets on pretty good with the ladies.

When it comes to pets on the Maryville College campus, he’s the only game in town.

Well, almost.

Maryville students Amber Gray and Mary Brafford are looking to shake things up for lovable dachshund with the school’s first-ever “Pup-a-palooza” on Saturday, April 4, on the grounds in front of Pearsons Hall. As a fund raiser for the Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation, Brafford, Gray and Maryville dean of students Vandy Kemp are encouraging students, faculty and the community at large to bring their dogs to campus from noon to 4 p.m.

Games, raffles and door prizes will be the order of the day. Refreshments will be provided. Admission is free of charge, with donations accepted to help fund the new Blount County Animal Center. The Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation was formed with the hope of raising $1.6 million toward the facility’s construction.

“Everything we raise will go toward that,” Gray said.

The idea for a Pup-a-palooza came about when both realized how much they missed their family pets, Gray and Brafford both said. Students aren’t allowed to keep dogs - and very few pets of any kind - in their rooms on campus.

“Fish and turtles are pretty much it,” Gray said.

Rufus is owned by assistant residence life coordinator Aja Rodriguez, who happily loans him out.

“Reptiles are OK,” Gray said, “if you can get them approved by the biology department first.”

Students can really come to miss their pets while at Maryville, said Brafford, a junior psychology major with minors in business and international studies. After all, it’s not everyone who has a cat back home who answers to the name of Kitty-Kitty-Meow-Meow.

“My mom calls her Sheila,” Brafford said.

Encouraging townspeople to bring their dogs to campus for the Pup-a-palooza has the added benefit of removing a sense of isolation for students at Maryville, she said.

“We’re like this island in the middle of Maryville where people don’t come in,” Brafford said.

You don’t lose a love for animals because you go away to college, said Gray, a junior psychology major.

“If you bring your dog or your pet around campus, we’ll pet them,” she said. “We don’t have any.”

Kemp said she first got the idea for a Maryville Pup-a-palooza a few years back.

“I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be good for college students to have pets to play with,” she said.

Smoky Mountain Animal Care board member Ellen Rudolph again raised the idea of a Pup-a-palooza after moving to the area a year ago, Kemp said. The Maryville administration quickly signed on, although one of the school’s groundskeepers first found the idea a little curious.

“One of the guys at the physical plant said, ‘Vandy Kemp is going to let people bring a lot of dogs on campus?’” Kemp said. “We’re giving everybody little bags when they arrive. Everyone will be responsible for cleaning up after their own pet.”

Who knows?

You might even get to meet Rufus.

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