Many students dressed in coats and backpacks enter and leave Nielsen Hall every day. However, a certain four-legged participant can also be seen wandering through Nielsen’s classrooms and hallways.
Togo, a mixture of Siberian husky and Alaskan malamute, is owned by Andrea “Dre” Cristini, postdoctoral research fellow in astronomy in physics, and his girlfriend Clare Carson. Although Togo is technically not a service animal, he is almost always in Nielsen Hall, accompanying Cristini to his office in Room 143.
Togo does not disturb other professors, staff or students at Nielsen Hall at all, so he is a welcome four-legged friend of the building, Cristini said.
Students in particular have taken a liking to Togo. Hunter Campbell, a graduate student in astronomy and physics, said Togo is a great addition to the physics building.
“When Togo was closer to the graduates office, I would go out and stroke it if I felt stressed or tired – it improved the homework,” Campbell said. “He’s kind and calm and is always ready to rub his stomach. Togo is awesome, and he lights up any day of mine when he’s here.
Campbell first met Togo as an undergraduate student while visiting the OU in search of graduate school. Visiting students got to play with Togo, and Campbell said Togo was “definitely a bonus” for attending the OU.
Cristini and Carson adopted Togo when they were 8 weeks old. Originally from England, Cristini bought Togo from a breeder in Wales, and they moved to America when Togo was around 4 years old. Togo is about 6 years old now.
Although Togo may appear calm, gentle, and innocent these days, he was a much more troublesome “lovable monster” in his younger years. He enjoys stealing blocks of butter from the kitchen and has already eaten an entire pound of butter that was accidentally left out, Carson said.
“I have a shiny photo where there was trash all over the kitchen, and I was like, ‘Oh, I have to take a picture so Dre can see it,’” Carson said. “And while I was taking the picture, Togo walked over and just looked at the camera. He basically photobombed it.
Cristini and Carson working full time while still living in the UK, they set up a camera so they could see what Togo was doing when they weren’t home. Sometimes he would do “naughty stuff,” Cristini said, but most of the time he would just lay there until they came back.
Huskies are extremely energetic dogs, according to Cristini, and Togo himself is an athlete. He and Cristini cycle to and from the office together and go out for a weekend run at Lake Hefner. The two have also done bikejor races together, a sport where when a dog is strapped to the front of a mountain bike and pulls the bike while the human is riding, Cristini said.
“He was our very first dog, which is probably a bad choice to make as a first dog,” said Cristini. “But we kind of adapted to him, and he adapted to us. Very early on, we started to realize that he needed a lot of exercise.
The name Togo was inspired by the true story of Balto, Carson said, where a dog named Togo ended up becoming the leader of his pack although he originally acted towards other dogs. Once a pack leader, Togo completes the most difficult part of a treacherous mission. Meanwhile, hero dog Balto gets credit for saving the day. According to Cristini, the name Togo is also inspired by a Japanese admiral of the same name.
“It’s kind of how we felt about Togo – it was misunderstood,” Carson said. “Togo would seem to act aggressively whenever we touched one of his siblings, but we quickly realized that it was just him who was protective… so we quickly realized that he was not aggressive. or something like that. He was just protective of his siblings. So that sort of matched everything that was misunderstood. “
Togo has been popular since day one of arriving in OU, Cristini said. Last semester Togo and Cristini had an office on the second floor, which had a sign outside its door that said “free stress relief” with a photo of Togo underneath. Cristini said the students arrived after a bad day or a tough exam and told him Togo was exactly what they needed that day.
Cristini said Togo should be seen as “free stress relief” for everyone and people are always welcome to visit Togo anytime.
“I feel like he’s a service to the department in a way,” Cristini said. “It’s a great unofficial addition to the department, and it’s even in the department photo. It is a converter. He converted a lot of people who were afraid or didn’t like dogs.
Togo and its owner (who can be emailed to [email protected]) are located in room 143 of Nielsen Hall. Togo even has an Instagram: @togovision.