Monday, May 20, 2024

Meet Raymond, the familiar golden retriever who frequents MSU's campus

April 22, 2024
Mike Harju and his dog Raymond stand along Grand River Avenue on April 22, 2024.
Mike Harju and his dog Raymond stand along Grand River Avenue on April 22, 2024.

Every once in a while, when studying at the MSU Union or taking a walk through the north side of campus, you may be greeted by a big, friendly golden retriever and his trademark red harness. 

Raymond and his owner, Mike Harju, have become familiar faces for students at Michigan State University. They walk around ten miles a day, with many of these excursions taking place on and around campus.

However, before coming to East Lansing, Raymond was a one year-old puppy at a small kennel in Haslett and Harju was looking for another service dog as his, at the time, was reaching twelve years old. 

"I had to get one to replace him, which was tough, so we went to a lot of kennels and looked at all the dogs and then I found him," Harju said. 

Now, Raymond is five years old. His job as a service dog is to keep Harju company, manage his anxiety and assist if Harju were to pass out or faint. Raymond knows the first two steps of CPR.

But on top of being there in the event of an emergency, Harju said, Raymond has had a relaxing effect on his life. 

"He just brings comfort to me," he said. "And he's with me. Everywhere I turn, he’s there." 

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They often spend their time together walking, relaxing and working. Raymond has become Harju’s buddy. It’s important to have pets around to provide a sense of comfort and friendship, Harju said.

"My mom was a person who stuck to herself, and I’m the same way," Harju said. "I have no friends up here, I do all my own cooking … so it’s just the companionship."

Harju has spent a large majority of his life running for sport. He has run multiple marathons, but fourteen years ago, while training for a 100 mile race, his body broke down and doctors could not figure out what happened. 

A while ago, Harju had heart surgery and was told afterwards not to do any strenuous exercise. While he no longer trains for races, he is able to stay healthy and protect his heart through walks.

Now, his days are spent walking with Raymond. 

"It’s good for my heart and it’s good to see him say hello to everybody," Harju said.

Their walks help Harju just as much as they allow Raymond to get out and exercise. 

"He sleeps a lot and he plays with the cats, (and) that’s about as much activity as he has," Harju said. "When I take him for a walk, it’s his turn to enjoy life."

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Raymond’s personality is often happy and social. If you come across him on one of their daily walks, Harju said, he is likely to welcome you with a wagging tail.

"He smiles all the time, he’s very calm," he said.

Harju’s favorite part about Raymond is his friendliness.

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"I have to ask people if he can say hello and he just loves people," he said. "He loves Friday night parties. The best thing is The Riv, when they have the big long line at the door, he loves to walk the line and see everybody."

Students that interact with Raymond all seem to love him, which is largely because they miss their own dogs, Harju said. 

"We go through the Union, and he goes to different tables," he said. "He likes to see people and I always have to ask if he can come up. A lot of the people he can spot have goldens at home. He knows if you have a golden, he’ll come up to you first."

One interaction Harju remembers in particular was with a woman who said she was scared of dogs, but was persuaded to pet him by Raymond's calm personality. 

"He was the first dog she petted," Harju said. "And then the other day, she came by and she just hugged him and really enjoyed being with him."

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Harju, who attended MSU in the 60s, enjoys walking on campus not only for the social interaction that Raymond gets, but also for the atmosphere. 

"The gardeners and everyone else knows him," Harju said. "We walk through the garden as many times as we can. It’s always been a beautiful campus, a beautiful place to walk, and it’s changed so much."

While their walks are usually calm, Harju said, one thing about Raymond is that he's stubborn. During the winter, their walks become sparse because the golden doesn't like the cold. 

"We were sitting down one day when it was real cold last year and I said, 'let’s go for a walk,' (and) he refused to go," Harju said. "Two days later, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get him to go out, so I drove him to where he likes to go to the bathroom. He went to the bathroom, got right back in the car, and we went home."

Their walks are also dictated by where Raymond wants to go most. 

"When we’re at the corners and I want to go one way and he wants to go the other way, we go his way," Harju said. 

The stubborn parts of Raymond’s personality make for funny stories, but there are too many to recount for Harju.

"Every day is a memory with Raymond," he said.

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