Fairfield University Campus Minister Katie Brynes decided to bring her English bulldog Bailey to work one day five years ago, and in doing so, she birthed one of the most popular traditions here at Fairfield University.
Each week, Woof Wednesday takes place in Campus Ministry where six-year-old Bailey accompanies Katie to work and creates a day of excitement for the Fairfield community.
“I thought it would be a great study break for students!” said Brynes on her inspiration behind the idea. “We work so hard here to create a home away from home for students, but sometimes you just need a little puppy love!”
Byrnes’s idea not only achieved immediate success, but it has also grown into one of the most popular traditions here on campus. Bailey spends every Wednesday in the office with Katie, and while the Woof Wednesday program technically does not start until 1:00 p.m., visitors flock into Campus Ministry all day.
“We have a few regulars, but new folks come every week,” said Brynes. “We take a quick break at [11:00 a.m.], and she does a little parade for the folks quarantining at the old Dolan School of Business to bring a smile to their faces….and then we are back!”
Bailey celebrates Woof Wednesdays by wearing a different costume for each week’s program. Brynes prepares a craft for people to partake in every Wednesday, and whether they do the craft or just hang out and feed Bailey treats, students appreciate this great environment.
Sophomore Liana Marino has been going to Woof Wednesday events since her first year.
“Being both a very creative person and a huge dog lover, these craft sessions helped me feel as though I was at home again as those are two big things that I miss when I’m at school,” said Marino. “Woof Wednesdays are so much fun for me, and I always try to bring new faces in to experience the fun.”
Marino appreciates how this program brings her so much joy in such a brief period of time. She is not the only student who advocates for this enjoyable experience. Peter Toutlouis ‘22, a work-study student in Campus Ministry, enjoys these social gatherings because it helps provide a fun sense of normalcy amidst the disruption of the pandemic.
“When I was an underclassmen, it really helped me meet students who were older than me and make new connections that lasted throughout my college experience,” said Toutoulis. “It’s a really nice experience to be able to hang out with my friends, or people I don’t know, and just talk.”
Junior Ruby Francis came across the program during her first year and also used it to immerse herself in the Fairfield community.
“Everyone was very welcoming and I soon got to know many new people,” commented Francis. “Now, I am a Woof Wednesday regular.”
Francis says this program provides her a much needed break from school work. It allows her to relieve stress in a comfortable, welcoming environment while meeting new people and catching up with familiar faces.
“Campus Ministry as a whole is a very calming and supportive place and the addition of crafts and Bailey always make it even better,” added Marino.
Byrnes and Bailey look forward to greeting familiar faces and meeting new friends each and every week. They both encourage everybody to partake in this weekly event, and the students that frequently attend capture the event’s enticing atmosphere through their reactions.