SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Kingston is a dog. He’s not a Terrier, but he’s benefitting because his human, sophomore Da’Ja Green, is.
Green is one of 16 students participating in the “Living With Dogs” Interim, a four-week study of the connection between humans and their canines.
The class, led by Dr. John Moeller, professor and vice chair of the biology department, involves both the academic (readings, videos and visiting speakers) and the more practical daily visits to the Spartanburg Humane Society for one person-one dog experiences.
As part of the course, students are paired with dogs at the society’s shelter with a goal of working with the animals over several weeks to refine their behaviors and make them better candidates for adoption.
“It’s been really eye-opening for me,” says Green, a psychology major from Ellenwood, Ga. “My dog at home – I’ve learned a bunch of different things about his behavior. I call home and ask my mom, ‘How’s the demon dog?’ She says, ‘He’s not a demon dog; he’s just hyper and active.’ But I’m learning more about his characteristics. His genes are what determine his behavior, and he’s always going to act a certain way because of that.”
The course includes material from dog behavior specialist Kim Brophey, whose L.E.G.S. model of animal behavior looks at the role learning, environment, genes and self-play in the development of a dog’s behavior.
Green says she and Kingston now exist on a new plane of understanding. “I approach him a lot differently,” she says. “He’s very smart. He likes to learn things, and now I understand why he jumps off of walls and things of that nature.”
Aaliyah Jones, a senior government and humanities major from Piedmont, S.C., is working with Boston, a pit-terrier mix at the shelter.
“We’ve come a long way,” she says. “Initially, he wouldn’t approach me at all. It took a lot for me to get him to gradually come out and play. Yesterday, he was chasing me and playing with me. I never thought I’d see that.
“I came into Interim thinking we would be talking about dogs in the mornings and playing with them in the afternoon, but it’s definitely more complex than that. You learn so much you never would have thought of about these animals.”
Interim frees students and faculty to spend the month of January focused on a single topic designed to expand the walls of the traditional classroom, explore new and untried topics, take academic risks, observe issues in action, develop capabilities for independent learning and consider different peoples, places and professional options.