Duke of Eastern: An interview with Dr. Morgan and her furry friend, Duke

By: Chloe Rupe

With Eastern having such a beautiful and friendly campus, it’s not unusual to see a furry friend or two. Although many would say that you typically don’t see a dog in your lecture or classroom, if you have Dr. Julie Morgan as a professor, you are always prepared to get a warm welcome from her dog, Duke. Many may ask why Duke comes onto campus and why Dr. Morgan regularly brings him to class. I interviewed Dr. Morgan to get an understanding of the questions students may have on why Duke is a familiar face around campus. 

For anyone who knows Dr. Morgan, you know that she is a fun and loving person and professor who is always followed by her sidekick, Duke. Duke is a 7-year-old Yellow Lab who has been through a lot of ups and downs throughout his life. But first, let’s start with how Dr. Morgan got Duke and the story behind his adoption. 

Dr. Morgan loves dogs, therefore it was not hard for her to decide she wanted one. One Sunday afternoon, Dr. Morgan went to the Brandywine SPCA looking for the “perfect” dog. The problem was the criteria. “Since I love all dogs, I asked the SPCA volunteer to help me find a dog who could meet all of my criteria: good with other dogs, good with little kids, good on a leash, doesn’t need a large yard, and so on….” Dr. Morgan said. Unfortunately, she went home empty-handed. 

About a week later was when she found her perfect match. It all started on her drive back home from Eastern. “I had been drinking a lot of water that day and really needed to go to the bathroom. The ONLY place to stop was the Brandywine SPCA. I pulled in, and stopped in the restroom. I thought ‘Well, it would be rude not to at least look at the dogs while I am here.’  Duke was the first dog I saw; it was love at first sight,” she said.

Dr. Morgan did not even feel the need to read through Duke’s paperwork or do a “meeting” with him beforehand. “I just knew he was coming home with me,” Dr. Morgan said. The only problem was that Duke was in bad shape. “He weighed about 45 pounds, had heartworms, and other kinds of awful worms. His life was rough. He had a pierced lip. His cheek looked branded. He was tied up and his neck showed the trauma. His hips and joints suffered because he didn’t get the nutrition needed as a puppy,” Dr. Morgan said. 

But this did not matter to her. She adopted Duke on March 2, 2022 and today they are both thriving. “A year later, he has won his fight against heartworms (which was an extremely painful and costly treatment), he has gained weight, and is living his best life,” Dr. Morgan said. Duke is also well-known around Eastern’s campus and continues to make students and faculty smile every day. The main reason Dr. Morgan brings Duke to campus is because of her students.

“I had done some informal research in the past about bringing a dog into the classroom to see how it would change interpersonal dynamics. While there is research on service dogs, I couldn’t find any research on ‘family dogs’ and their impact on learning. Would it help students feel more comfortable and possibly learn better? My previous dog (a very large black lab) was too energetic! He would run around the classroom, jump on students and lick their faces. Still, I noticed that it was a positive for the classroom,” Dr. Morgan said.

Due to the recent pandemic, Dr. Morgan felt that since depression and anxiety were rising in students, she wanted to bring a calm dog to help the students cope. “Studies show that petting a dog reduces stress. I think it gives students something else to talk about besides coursework.

A way to connect with each other. If a student wants to sit on the floor and pet Duke for the entire class, that is fine,” Dr. Morgan said. Dr. Morgan has no problem continuing teaching while a student takes five minutes or even the rest of the class petting Duke on the floor. It is definitely a win for Duke for the students. Many students look forward to greeting Duke on campus or in the classroom. 

Duke is a face on campus many of us are familiar with and we know that he brings so much joy into the lives of everyone he meets. “He is a good companion. For me, I get a glimpse of what it means to love unconditionally. Even with all the past trauma, Duke loves unconditionally,” Dr. Morgan said. If you ever see Dr. Morgan and Duke on campus, don’t be afraid to say hello. They both love meeting new people, and Duke certainly loves the attention. 

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