One of the most famous figures on the UAS Juneau Campus (second only to Spike the Whale) is Mavis, a 9-year-old cardiac alert service and emotional-support dog who often accompanies owner Grace Igel to class and work at Spike’s Cafe. Prior to her service-dog career, Mavis was an AKC show dog, and the mother of a litter of puppies. When she’s not on the job, Mavis loves yoga, hiking, and balled-up socks.
Mavis’ job is to provide advanced warning for heart attacks or palpitations, as her heightened sense of hearing enables her to detect subtle changes in heart rhythm and alert her owner. According to Igel, Mavis once started acting more anxious than usual for reasons Igel didn’t understand – until she had a heart attack later that day. Service animals such as Mavis can be a life-saving asset for those living with unpredictable health conditions.
Mavis is also well-recognized on campus, appearing in several past Whalesong articles and across University-run social media. This recognition comes with some drawbacks, however.
“I’ve never run into any problems regarding staff, and the majority of students are respectful of her space,” Igel said. “The only problem I’ve run into is people walking to pet her without my knowledge or consent. Since she’s well-known to be so loving, sometimes people don’t ask me if they can interact with her before doing so, which can make her uncomfortable and stressed.”
While those on campus should be courteous toward service animals at work, it’s not taboo to ask to greet or pet them. Guide Dogs of America recommends that passerby approach the handler first, rather than the dog, as unexpected stimuli could interrupt crucial services or encourage unwanted behavior.
While Mavis is the canine face of campus at large, first-year students living in John Pugh Residence Hall have come to know another, much smaller dog – Gracie Mae Gonzalez, the emotional support animal for Lylian Puhl.
Emotional support is the title assigned to animals that provide needs-based support to those struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions. Gonzalez has been a companion to Puhl for nine years Recently designated the “Dorm Dog,” Gonzalez enjoys the attention and company of other residents when she accompanies Puhl to the third-floor Commons.
Gonzalez is not a single dog, however; she maintains a stable “marriage” with her 12-year-old bear-dog/husky “husband” Buster, Puhl said.
Puhl is also happy with the way support for animals is handled at UAS, only suggesting poop bag dispensers around campus.
By AJ Schultz, Staff Writer, Whalesong