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Ivy goes public: Miami's new 'First Dog'

I walked into Lewis Place, and Renate greeted me with her usual bright smile. But following in her footsteps was the welcoming committee I was really looking forward to: Ivy, the newest member of the Crawford family, pranced into the hallway to see who had come to call.

At 13 months old, Ivy is lean and lanky, and her light yellow fur is fluffy and soft as can be. She loves to play but has quickly come into her professional role as First Dog -- evident in her perfect posture in her Miami gear in photos.

It's no surprise that the Crawfords chose Ivy, a golden retriever and former 4 Paws trainee, as their new dog. Greg and Renate's two previous dogs, Emma and Shelby, were both golden retrievers. Shelby was their "first child," the dog they had in graduate school when they were first married. And Emma was Miami's original First Dog, who they had for 15 years.

The Crawford family is never without a dog for long. Students, parents and alumni even started asking when they would get another, saying that the house needed one.

Greg was the one who so badly wanted another dog, but Renate was more reluctant because of how hard it would be for them to train a puppy. Then someone brought up the idea of adopting what 4 Paws calls a "fabulous flunky," a dog who has been fostered through the socialization portion of training, but who didn't pass the exam to become an official service dog. Having already been through socialization, the dog would already have most of the necessary training.

They tried to adopt a dog that had been on Miami's campus, but he was placed with another family. The Crawfords stayed on the waiting list, but Renate didn't tell Greg. Ivy was going to be a surprise.

Renate disguised Ivy's pick-up date on their shared calendar and made sure to be home before Greg. The reveal didn't quite go as planned. Greg walked into the house, calling "hello?" And Ivy responded with barks, giving herself away.

"A dog?" Greg had asked. "Whose dog is this?"

"It's your dog," Renate said. Greg was ecstatic.

Ivy is a major attraction for the Crawfords' daughters; their oldest is already planning her second visit in just the two weeks they've had Ivy. And she's already famous around Miami. Students will stop by Lewis Place or schedule a visit during Renate's office hours for the sole purpose of seeing the pup.

"Life's been pretty good for her," Renate said. "It's been really nice to see the students welcoming her so much. That's been phenomenal, and she's definitely enjoyed it."

Her early training makes it easy for Renate and Greg to take Ivy just about anywhere. She's perfectly fine with little kids in Uptown park and, despite running from the vacuum, wasn't even freaked out by the dancing dragons at the Chinese festival.

But don't be fooled -- she's like any other dog, and still a puppy at heart. She knows how to play fetch, but gets distracted by leaves blowing by or friends at the dog park. She lays with frog legs or shows off her seal yoga pose -- her head thrown back and legs outstretched.

Ivy loves chewing on bones, Kongs with peanut butter in them and ice cubes. Ice cubes, for some reason, are her favorite treat and the incentive to get her into the crate.

She likes carrots and pieces of apple when Renate offers to share, but she literally turned her nose up at tomato.

Ivy has learned that students who come for Renate's office hours usually pack a lunch, so she checks their bags for snacks.

Most impressive, though, is Ivy's dinner routine. It took her a few times to learn not to get so excited as to knock the bowls out of Renate's hands, sending food and water everywhere. Now, she runs and slides on the hardwood floor to where the bowls will be.

"Almost like she's sliding into first, she sits down and slides at the same time," Renate described.

Ivy has timed her move perfectly and is always ready for dinner.

Ivy hasn't quite learned the no furniture rule She tries to join me on a chair clearly suited for one, but I don't mind and take the opportunity to enjoy a puppy hug. Greg and Renate also accommodate by watching TV on the floor with her.

Ivy's definitely a companion dog; Renate often finds herself talking with her.

"I talk a lot to myself, the dog, whatever. You know?" Renate said. "And you notice yourself doing that. I'm like, 'Oh, if anybody was listening right now, you do realize that she's not going to talk back, right? Let's go upstairs to do laundry or ope, time to work on our lectures.'"

Ivy follows them everywhere. Even when Renate thinks she's sound asleep and tries to tip-toe out of the room, she'll jump up and be right behind her.

She'll sit herself right next to someone, making it obvious that she wants to be pet and loved.

"Do you have anything to add?" Renate asked Ivy, looking down at her intent face and continuing to rub under her ears (she had shoved herself into Renate's hands).

Ivy just yawns.