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not a normal dog [lifestyle]

the main green's favorite west virginia brown dog

If you are an avid reader of post-, you may have seen my entry a few weeks ago where I proclaimed a gaping dog-shaped hole in my life. It exists because I miss my pup from home, Sara (who is, unequivocally, the best dog, like all dogs). In an attempt to fill this hole in my heart, I’ve reached out to talk to dogs and dog owners on campus that frequent the main green to hear more of (and perhaps live vicariously through) their lives. This week, I talked to Atlas (@the_atlas_gram on Instagram!), a beautiful part-golden retriever, and his parent, Victoria.

The first thing you should know about Atlas is that he’s ambiguously aged. He is six, or maybe seven—he’s a rescue so no one really knows. When Victoria first got him he was around a year old. When Atlas joined her family, she thought he was going to get bigger and grow out of his puppy bed. But then he didn’t really do that. Atlas stayed puppy-sized. And retained his puppy characteristics of friendly, goofy silliness. “He spends a lot of time flopped over on his back, I think it is a golden retriever thing.” 

Atlas is allegedly also part chow, and part Leonberger “which is a giant dog that looks just like him but just much, much larger”. But perhaps most accurately, Atlas is a “West Virginia brown dog” (Victoria notes here that this “is code for mutt”). He lives near campus with Victoria in a “weird, old Providence apartment” that offers Atlas his own private balcony where he likes to start his day with time in the sun before going on a morning walk. If Victoria doesn’t open the balcony door fast enough, he’ll look at her, as if to say, ‘Why aren’t you opening the door to the balcony?’ Victoria suspects that he knows the word “balcony” at this point.

Atlas is calm. Most of the time. 

“Yesterday while we were all sitting in the living room doing homework, he wasn’t barking, but he’d lie there, and then he’d be like, ‘What’s that?’ Then he would run across the room and look in my roommate’s door, then run into my room and look out the window, then run back and lie down. He repeated that every ten minutes for over two hours. Atlas would never disrupt others with relentless barking, he would do a little ‘arwoof woof,’ which is not really a bark, just a little vocalization.” 

“People on the Main Green love him. I bring him there and walk laps around the Main Green so people will pay attention to him. He really knows how to work a room. He’ll sit there and let people pet him. Then he’ll lay there and as people start to lose interest, he’ll do a big dramatic flop and everyone will squeal and rub his belly. He fully knows what he’s doing.” 

Victoria recalls what is perhaps his greatest Main Green performance to date was on the first day of Spring Weekend last year:

“I walked him up and down the line while people were waiting to get in. Everyone told me I should’ve been charging, and maybe I should have because I bet I would’ve gotten a lot of money. Drunk Brown students want nothing more than [to pet] a dog.” 

Atlas is a big fan of butt scratches and being under the bed, and we are let in on the secret that Atlas will also secretly sit on the couch. 

“I think he knows he’s not allowed to, but I can never tell him he’s not allowed because he never gets on the couch when I’m around. Frequently we’ll let him and pat the couch and be like, ‘Come here, come here,’ and we’ll ask him to get on the couch and cuddle with us, but he won’t do it. He’ll stand his front feet up there and lay his head on you, but he will not get on the couch.” 

However, Atlas has been caught in the act on a few occasions. 

“One time one of my roommates came out of the shower, and I guess Atlas didn’t think my roommate was there. And Atlas was sitting on the couch and my roommate looked at him like, ‘Are you supposed to be there?’ so he got off.” 

“Another time I was leaving, and as I walked by the window, I saw him standing with his paws on the arm of the couch watching me walk away. So the next day when I was leaving, as I was heading out of the living room, I saw he was standing close and at a strange orientation to the couch, and I was like, ‘I bet he’s gonna get on the couch.’ So I opened the door and shut the door without leaving. I waited a little bit and I poked my head around the corner, and he was sitting there with his feet on the couch ready to watch me leave. It was really funny. I was like, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ He jumped off and was like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’” 

Otherwise, Atlas and Victoria have an exceptional rapport. 

“We communicate and understand each other well. I just talk to him like a normal person. I really like having him here just because he’s my friend and I like having him around. I grew up on a farm and we had a bunch of farm dogs, and we always had pet dogs and cats and sheep, so it was really weird my first two years not ever interacting with a dog except for twice in a semester at a therapy dog event or something. So it’s nice to have him around, but it’s a lot of work.” 

“I think this is only working so well for me because he’s my dog who I had before I came to Brown, and I knew him and had a good connection with him. I knew he wasn’t going to be really high maintenance and bark all day and annoy the neighbors or need to go to the groomer twice a week. I don’t think I would adopt a dog as a Brown student because there are so many unknowns.” 

As winter approaches, Atlas invites us to join him in facing the drop in temperatures and shortening of days with vigor and dogged enthusiasm. “He’s definitely a cold weather dog, so as it’s gotten colder he’s gotten weirdly energetic. He always has, but more so this year. I think it’s part of his journey to being a normal dog.” 

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I hope you enjoyed this installment of getting to know a Brown dog! If you have a dog, please contact me at andy_luo@brown.edu. In exchange for getting to spend time with you and your dog, I’ll feature both of you in my next article!

Note: please do not contact me if (1) you do not have a dog, (2) you have a dog but your dog is not physically in Providence, (3) your dog does not consent to being featured in the article. If (2) applies to you, I’m sorry, I feel your pain. I too miss my dog very much. However, if you meet all the criteria and would like to be featured, I do hope you’ll be in touch!




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