When he was a boy growing up in New York, Mike Schill wanted a dog. His parents said, “No.”
Flash forward a few decades, and when Schill became president of the University of Oregon in 2015, he still wanted that dog. “My parents did not want pets, and I’ve wanted a dog ever since I came here,” he says during a masked, outdoor, afternoon visit on the nearly deserted UO campus.
At first, reality intervened. Schill, who is single, imagined having his dog with him all the time. But the UO doesn’t allow dogs in offices, and he thought it would set a poor example for him to bring his dog to work in violation of the rules that pertain to everyone else. Plus he traveled all the time for his job.
But Schill had a vision. “My picture of being president was to be walking on campus and having people come up, you know, young people petting the dog and enjoying the dog, you know, a great ice breaker with students and things like that. And the problem was my schedule was so crazy that I wasn’t going to be around really, to take care of the dog and to get to know the dog.”
Then the pandemic changed everything. What with working from home, as so many people now do, and with incessant travel suddenly off the table, Schill finally saw his chance to have a dog he could spend plenty of time with.
Enter Max, an ebulliently friendly young spaniel who arrived in May from Raining Dogs Rescue in Eugene. It has a very specific mission of placing dogs in forever homes here from shelters in Texas and New Mexico.
Max, Schill explains, is somewhere between two and four years old. Little is known of his background, except that he arrived at a shelter in Texas with the name “Dallas.” Schill liked “Max” better.
Whatever his background may be, Max is sweet, energetic and friendly. He adores Schill and likes to jump up and down in front of him like a furry pogo stick.
“The only time he’ll ever leave my sight is – it’s sort of interesting – if you give him a treat, what he’ll do is he’ll go upstairs to eat it. I think where he was, there were probably other dogs. So he’ll run up the stairs and then sometimes he’ll hide it. Sometimes I find things in my bed.”
It’s not entirely clear what Max’s precise breed is, though Schill, a lawyer who loves research, has done his homework. He pulls out his phone to show a photo he’s found online of a Kooikerhondje, a Dutch spaniel that indeed looks quite a bit like Max.
Reading on the American Kennel Club site you discover why Max turns out to be the perfect dog for a UO president: The Kooikerhondje, it says, was originally bred in the Netherlands as a “duck decoy dog.” Go Ducks!