PAW takes on Schwitzer Student Center

University of Indianapolis students, faculty and staff could cuddle with local shelter cats and dogs in Schwitzer Student Center at “Cuddle With a Pup,” according to a UINDY App post by Chair and Professor for Criminal Justice Kevin Whiteacre. The event was sponsored by the UIndy Department of Criminal Justice, and worked with Pet Adoption Wagon, within Indianapolis animal shelter IndyHumane, Kevin Whiteacre said. The event was held on Nov. 30 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m..

According to IndyHumane, the program is designed to bring pets and people together through their fully-contained mobile kennels. Kevin Whitacre said this helps to promote the adoption of the animals.

Associate Professor of English and IndyHumane volunteer Liz Whiteacre holds a puppy while several students gather around. The IndyHumane PAW event was held on Nov. 30.
Photo by Allison Cook

“They go all over the city and do things like pet stores in different places where you can go and see the dogs and the cats and adopt them,” Whiteacre said. 

Kevin Whiteacre said that he and Associate Professor of English Liz Whiteacre came up with the idea because they both volunteer at IndyHumane. Together, they figured that the idea would help reduce student stress as finals week approaches, according to Kevin Whiteacre.

  “It’s an opportunity to again, just pet a dog and snuggle a kitten,” Kevin Whiteacre said  “The research shows that it does reduce stress and this is a pretty stressful time of year heading into finals and whatnot.”

There is value in students and animals interacting on campus, Liz Whiteacre said and events such as “Cuddle With a Pup” also help make students more aware of IndyHumane. 

“There is a value in being a volunteer because you have the opportunity to connect animals and people in a way that’s really positive, and both the animals and the people leave feeling really good and part of a community and loved,” Liz Whiteacre said. “Another benefit would be attending an event that breaks up your routine. It gives you an opportunity to de-stress. It gives you an opportunity to show an animal love and make their life better and their day better.”

According to IndyHumane, PAW can be booked at private events for $255 an hour and for free at school events with a two-hour time limit. The Office of Student Affairs helped with setting up the location and waivers and, according to Kevin Whiteacre, the event turnout was impressive.

“From what I remember, they went through 230 waivers, and if we estimated there were probably a couple dozen of people who just came through and didn’t sign waivers,” Kevin Whiteacre said. “So I think student affairs is estimating about 250 students and staff came through in the two-hour time to hang out with the dogs and cats. So it was super successful.”

Liz Whiteacre said that if students are inspired to volunteer at IndyHumane, they can read more information on the organization’s website. Liz Whitacre also said that students can donate time, resources and old pet supplies. They can also look into other ways to help IndyHumane, according to Liz Whiteacre. Students can get involved with a variety of programs such as PAW and special events, according to IndyHumane.

“If students are interested in engaging specifically with IndyHumane, they have a wonderful website that talks about volunteer opportunities as well as all of the animals who are at that moment being sheltered there,” Liz Whiteacre said. 

According to Kevin Whiteacre, there are two ways to volunteer at PAW, which include being a canine companion or a feline friend with these are more hands-on approaches to volunteering, as they directly work with the animals.

“You usually do two-hour shifts and then [with] canine companions after you go through some training, you go in there and you take them out, you walk them, you maybe help clean out their kennels if they need that,” Kevin Whiteacre said. “But you help them stretch their legs and get walks and you love on them and you give them love. It’s the best two hours of my week every week.”

Kevin and Liz Whiteacre both say they frequently volunteer at PAW and find it fulfilling. Liz Whiteacre said she hopes that “Cuddle With a Pup” will preview future collaborations between IndyHumane and UIndy. Kevin Whiteacre said students should volunteer, as the school’s motto is “Education for Service.”

“Well, ‘Education for Service’ is our motto here,” Kevin Whiteacre said. “It’s not just an empty motto. The faculty practice it, staff practice it, hopefully, students will practice it. Especially I think in this era where people feel a lot more anxious and sometimes they feel like they have a lot more struggles. I think the best way to overcome that is to go out and as Arnold Schwarzenegger says ‘be useful.’”

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