Section: Features

A 100-year history of strange animal encounters in Gambier

From the resident cat Moxie to the Farm’s animals to the campus raccoons, Kenyon is known as a home to countless furry friends. A diverse animal kingdom is not a newfound staple of Gambier; campus pets have always been a topic of discussion amongst the community. In looking through the Collegian archives, you’re bound to stumble upon a story pertaining to one campus animal or another. Many stories have been buried over the years, or still remain a mystery to this day, and deserve recognition. Here’s a look at over one hundred years of Kenyon’s history with campus pets. 


Cat Shot by Campus Security Officer 

After the October break of 1975, student Holly MacIsaac ’78 returned to her residence hall to find her cat missing. Confused, she approached campus security hoping to get answers. MacIsaac was shocked to hear that her cat, according to the officers, “had been taken and dumped off near the river,” supposedly left in the forest to survive on its own. The article implies that MacIsaac stopped her investigation there. Keeping the cat on campus in and of itself was in violation of the strict no-pet policy of the time, so pursuing the issue further may have drawn extra attention to her violation. 

Suspicious of the affair, Collegian reporters directly approached former Director of Student Housing Ross Fraser. Only then did students discover the truth: A campus security officer had shot the cat. According to Fraser, a room inspector heard the cat’s cries from MacIsaac’s room over break and assumed it had been abandoned. Security then approached Mount Vernon’s local pound hoping to find a home for the cat, but the pound didn’t accept the feline. With no solution in sight, the next best course of action was, apparently, to “do away with the cat themselves,” according to Fraser. 

When approached by the Collegian, Former Chief Security Officer James Cass expressed little regret or concern. Though it’s unclear whether or not Cass shot the cat himself, he was certainly aware of the killing. When asked how the affair may look under Ohio’s animal cruelty laws —which clearly prohibits the killing of cats — Cass responded, “Things can be done off the record.”

Though he didn’t excuse the killing, Fraser expressed little regret over the occurrence. “This is not something we like to do or practice regularly,” he said. However, he contended that the cat’s initial presence on campus was deemed the true crime. According to him, all pets, since illicit, are “solely the responsibility of the person who brings them here.” There is no record of administrative action taken in response to the shooting.


“Dopey” and “Doc” the Turtles

In October of 1939, “the Turtle Farm” appeared: a small enclosure dedicated to two turtles, “Dopey” and “Doc.” The students who owned the enclosure opened the Farm to the entire Kenyon community and hoped for it to contain hundreds of turtles and, eventually, for their enclosure to flourish into a campus attraction. The campus quickly fell in love with the turtles; everyone waited anxiously for “any developments that might result in further additions,”  as the Oct. 1939 edition of the Collegian article puts it. Unfortunately, their hopes were futile, as the turtles didn’t produce any babies. All other records of  the Farm or its founding fathers are unfortunately lost. 


“Purr-fect Pets” — The Exotic Pet Shop that Vanished

In 1999, perhaps one of the greatest of Gambier’s animal mysteries took place: Columbus resident Victoria Galle gained approval from the Village of Gambier to open an exotic pet store named “Purr-fect Pets” in the Village. Galle owned an exotic pet store in Columbus, and, hoping to expand her horizons, turned to Gambier to open her second location. The store was planning to exclusively sell fish, snakes, tarantulas, scorpions and exotic birds. The Gambier Zoning Commission granted Galle a “conditional use permit,” meaning that she could keep the store as long as it adhered to zoning regulations for domesticated animals. 

With Dean of Residential Life Doug Zipp leading the cause, Kenyon spoke out vehemently against the opening of the store, stating that the shop would be a health and safety risk to the campus. The College also expressed fear that students, once purchasing exotic animals, would neglect and abuse them. “The last thing [students] think about is ‘what am I going to do with my tarantula over spring break?’” Zipp said. The town committee dismissed the College’s concerns, however, and Galle received the  permit. 

After making Collegian news in November of 1999, all mentions of the shop completely vanished, and there are no other records of discourse surrounding the shop in the Collegian archives. We can presume that Galle never followed through on her project, or that the store only existed briefly. Either way, the exotic pet store remains a Kenyon mystery.


Two Boa Constrictors loose in Watson Hall – 6 Years Apart

Watson Hall must be condemned to a very specific curse: On two separate occasions, in the years 1975 and 1981, pet boa constrictors escaped their owners to hide in the dorm’s ventilation system. First, in 1975, a boa named Junior snuck out of its owner’s room through the building’s heating system. The snake then slithered down two stories, making a home for itself in the ventilator right outside an unsuspecting resident’s door. Junior sat there for months on end, without food or water, and was never found by its owner. Tragically, the boa died over winter break of that year after the school’s heating system was shut off. 

Six years later, the same thing happened. Former Student Council President Morris Thorpe ’81 allowed a fellow student to borrow his boa, Boris, to play a prank on a roommate. The prank was allegedly successful, but while reveling in success, the boa escaped through a ventilation shaft. Thorpe went above and beyond to find his lost snake: He crammed himself through the crawl spaces, capturing a live mouse as bait hoping to lure the snake out of its hiding space, all to no avail. Surprisingly, Thorpe didn’t seem too distressed with the fears from his dorm mates, who expressed obvious concern that the snake could harm someone. In his interview with the Collegian, Thorpe  seemed mostly preoccupied with Boris’ well-being.   

“I hope I get him back for the simple reason that I like him,” he said, insisting that the snake would not harm anyone. According to the article, Thorpe emphasized the snake’s gentle demeanor and encouraged other students to take care of Boris if they found him. After the incident was mentioned in the Nov. 12, 1981 edition of the Collegian, the boa was never spoken of again, leaving Boris’ fate a mystery.



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