When Mia Di Nardo made her dog an Instagram in October, he gained more followers than her own account in one day.
Now, University of Maryland students approach the junior criminology and criminal justice major because they recognize her emotional support dog Huxley from his Instagram, huxleytheterp, which has nearly 2,000 followers.
Huxley’s Instagram features pictures of him posing in campus locations such as the McKeldin Library stacks and the Jim Henson statue in front of Stamp Student Union.
“I really wanted him to be popular on campus,” Di Nardo said. “And I was like, ‘How cool would it be if I had the dog that people knew on campus?'”
A lack of motivation and stress inspired Di Nardo to get her own emotional support animal, and she said Huxley’s companionship has helped her feel happier.
“It was actually massively helpful,” Di Nardo said. “I am such a happier person since I’ve had him. He is definitely the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
The four-month-old Shih Tzu, who weighs less than seven pounds, accompanies Di Nardo to work at the campus’ Engineering and Physical Sciences Library. During finals week last semester, staff members left photos of Huxley around the library for students to take home, said Pinar Beygo, Di Nardo’s supervisor and the library’s coordinator.
“He’s a therapy dog for anyone who sees him,” Beygo said.
Beygo, who’s been with the library for 16 years, said this is the first emotional assistance animal who’s accompanied a student worker there. And as long as Huxley’s not causing any distractions — such as barking — he’s more than welcome.
“I would love if we would have one for the staff permanently, but we’ll make do with him coming in a few times a week,” Beygo said.
Di Nardo has photos of him in the McKeldin Library stacks and posing with the Jim Henson statue in front of Stamp Student Union.
When people see the two on the campus and shyly ask Di Nardo to pet Huxley, she encourages them.
“I’m like, ‘Yeah, absolutely, go for it.'” she said. “Because it will literally make your day.”
Senior biology major Alana Ebert-Zavos is one of Di Nardo’s three other roommates at Courtyards. But the two weren’t close until Huxley brought them together.
“Huxley’s this social lubricant for us,” Ebert-Zavos said. “It’s been like a wonderful way for us to bond and connect.”
For now, Huxley continues to take occasional naps, accompany Di Nardo to work and learn a new trick — barking when Di Nardo says “Go Terps.”
“I made a lot of friends just because people are like, ‘Oh my gosh, can I pet your dog?'” Di Nardo said. “He’s a great conversation starter.”