When psychology and neuroscience professor and Timothy Dwight resident fellow David McCormick brought his new Samoyed puppy home in 2013, it was the start of something special.
“That first night I took her outside the courtyard was covered in snow, and she kinda jumped out like a snowball,” McCormick said. “The TD students gasped and wanted to see more. It was quite the beginning.”
Three years later, the fluffy, white, 4-year-old Sasha has amassed a large following of students and fans who greet and hug her on her daily walks. With over 3,000 friends on her Facebook account “Sasha Pup,” she often receives hundreds of likes on each post. But last week, Sasha and the McCormicks made an announcement: At the end of the academic year, they are leaving Yale for the University of Oregon. McCormick will serve as director of the Institute of Neuroscience, his wife Lanch McCormick will be the director of student engagement and Sasha will serve as “director of fluffiness,” according to an email TD Head of College Mary Lui sent to the college community last Wednesday.
“Sasha has been integral in creating the sense of warmth and community that I hope people associate with TD,” Lui told the News. In her Wednesday email, she also praised the McCormicks for offering advising sessions, hosting dinners, organizing meditation and making Sasha available for all.
University President Peter Salovey expressed sadness at Sasha’s upcoming departure, especially for his own dog Portia, a Havanese.
“I am very sorry to learn the news that Sasha Pup will be leaving the University,” Salovey said. “I especially grieve for Portia, who always finds it hard to lose a friend.”
Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway told the News that Sasha embodies a hallmark of the Yale experience and exemplifies how residential colleges can be a welcoming home for students and help them overcome anxieties.
Former Head of TD Jeffrey Brenzel ’75 said he was proud to watch Sasha serve as ambassador and champion of TD, and expects her to “light up the entire state of Oregon.”
Reflecting on the time he and Sasha shared at Yale, McCormick said Sasha’s fame has been a great lesson in humanity.
“Animals help us be humans to each other; it makes the world a beautiful place,” McCormick said. “I’ve met so many wonderful people because of Sasha.”
Sasha’s viral fame began after someone snapped a photo of him and Sasha posing next to a statue of the Egyptian god Anubis on Cross Campus, McCormick said. Unbeknownst to McCormick, the photo was uploaded to the popular Facebook group Overhead at Yale, and soon after, Sasha’s Facebook page, made mostly for TD students, blew up with friend requests.
Many Yalies responded to the news of Sasha leaving Yale with dismay and sadness. Placards in napkin holders in the Silliman dining hall were replaced with a quote attributed to Virginia Woolf: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if Sasha Pup is not here.”
Joyce Duan ’20 said she loves Sasha and will miss her dearly, adding that the puppy is more accessible and famous than Handsome Dan.
Jorge Anaya ’19, a student in TD who has dog-sat Sasha, said he feels bittersweet. While he is glad that the McCormicks will be pursuing their goals, he is also sad to see them and Sasha go.
“There’s going to be a void,” Anaya said.
Philosophy professor Daniel Greco said he is sorry that the McCormicks are leaving, but noted that there will still be a Samoyed on campus next semester: his dog Bianca, who is often mistaken for Sasha.
Sasha has maintained an active social media presence, posting 360-degree pictures and videos. While students will still be able to watch Sasha’s Facebook page for updates and pictures from Oregon, McCormick said there will only be occasional updates.
“Sasha might trade in social media for a little more real life,” McCormick said.