Students who are homesick for their furry friends have a new club to make them feel at ease.
B.A.R.C stands for Bonding with Animals through Recreation on Campus, and is a student-run club at Virginia Tech working in partnership with the veterinary staff at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.
“Erin Heller, the founder (of B.A.R.C.), noticed that the dogs at the veterinary school didn’t get a whole lot of walking time,” Sarah Greenway, vice president of the club, said. “The club was started to take the dogs out to exercise and to allow them to socialize on a more regular basis.”
All 36 dogs in the program live at the veterinary school on campus. Before B.A.R.C., dogs were assigned to first-year veterinary students to be taken out at least three times a week. “Between our club members and the vet students, they now get out once or twice a day,” Greenway said.
Although B.A.R.C. is based through the veterinary school, any student interested can become a member. “We have members that are in majors from all of the schools at Virginia Tech,” Greenway said.
For prospective students of the veterinary school, B.A.R.C. is a great way to become familiar with the program. Being a part of the club allows members to interact with staff and to “get (their) foot in the door with the school,” Greenway said.
In addition to exercising the dogs, Greenway added that members assist in training them to “make them more adoptable.” Every spring, the dogs that have lived at the veterinary school for a minimum of three years are put up for adoption, many of which have been taken home by members of B.A.R.C.
Becoming a member of the club is simple: “All you have to do is attend a training session,” Greenway explained. There, prospective members learn the basics of where the dogs live, how to apply their harnesses, where to walk them and more.
The two requirements necessary to be a part of the club are that each member must take part in a social or service event and walk a dog at least five times every semester. If these constraints are not met, members must go through the training process all over again to be reinstated.
Greenway states that by keeping the club at a low-level of commitment, B.A.R.C. enables students to take part in other organizations on campus, yet still be able to interact with the dogs. “It’s a great deal,” she said, “especially for animal lovers missing their dogs back home.”
Club membership continues to increase significantly, growing from 35 to 155 members this year alone. “That number gets bigger every week,” Greenway said.