Gary David and his two adorable corgis Puck and Katie have become symbols of the UC San Diego community. The UCSD Guardian sat down with Gary, also known as The Corgi Man, to learn more about these campus celebrities.
Late in the afternoon, as weary students trudge to their next destinations, a livelier bunch makes their way through campus: two corgis eagerly pressing forward at the ends of their leashes while their owner calmly follows.
As the trio strolls along, students excitedly stop to take pictures of the gorgeous dogs and pet their soft, fluffy fur. Photos of the corgis grace dozens of students’ social media accounts. The dogs have even inspired posts on the UC San Diego meme Facebook page, which often call on students to like and comment for good luck. It’s safe to say that these two corgis and their owner, who students have affectionately dubbed The Corgi Man, have reached veritable celebrity status at UCSD.
This may come as a surprise to some, but ‘The Corgi Man’ is not his real name. Known as Gary David to friends and family, but not to most fawning students, he’s well accustomed to students flocking around him and his dogs on their walks.
“My wife, Deni, and I acquired our first corgi, Imp, on Aug. 4, 1973,” he recalled. “That was the beginning of our addiction, and the campus walks.”
“We lived across North Torrey Pines Road from Revelle College, which at the time was mostly eucalyptus groves, lawns, and sports fields, providing plenty of open space that made for good walks.”
When Gary first started walking Imp at UCSD, he had no idea that his dogs would become so beloved by the community.
He remarked, “At that time, no one knew what a corgi was. I’d be asked questions like, ‘Is that a dog?!’ or ‘What’s the cross?’”
Nevertheless, as time passed and Gary adopted more corgis, he witnessed each of his dogs rise to stardom.
“Our second corgi, Lady, was so adept with all kinds of balls that she was often invited into soccer scrimmages with students … I think ‘celebrity’ status started to evolve with our fourth corgi, Abbie. After having ruptured three disks, she was paralyzed and confined to a cart. Yet she was very active and became quite a hit. And the La Jolla Playhouse’s artistic director, Des McAnuff, took a liking to her and threatened to create a character for her in one of his plays!”
“It’s their walk, so they determine the route. They’re encouraged to develop their own personalities and behavioral patterns. It’s fascinating to watch them make decisions,” he said. “Anyone who doesn’t believe animals can think has never really watched one.”
Gary’s current dogs, Puck and Katie, are the fifth and sixth corgis he’s owned. Puck, whose coat is white and tan, turned eleven years old on June 26. Katie, who has darker and longer fur, will be ten years old on Jan. 16. In their decade-long lives rife with campus walks, these two have taken on a whole new level of stardom, which Gary attributes to social media.
“I think it was eight or nine years ago that a student created a Facebook page for them. That went viral,” he explained.
Despite being celebrities on UCSD’s campus, Gary does not believe that fame has altered their behaviors. Instead, he has observed their personalities changing due to age.
“As Puck gets older, he is becoming more impatient. Over the last few months he’s started ‘talking’ during petting sessions, expressing his desire to get on with things, while Katie still enjoys the attention. He grumbles, grunts, and woofs. Most students seem to understand that it’s nothing personal, but I think a few are taken aback. Hopefully, everyone will learn to just ignore his impatience and keep giving both attention.”
Unfortunately, certain problematic behaviors have arisen from the dogs’ encounters with people on their campus walks. For instance, when Katie was a puppy, she had a troubling experience with children playing with her on campus.
“Katie got to playing with a little girl, probably around six years old, on a regular basis. One day that little girl saw Katie coming and went running toward her screaming her name and waving her hands wildly. Katie got a bit scared and started barking and running away,” Gary recounted.
“Then five of the girl’s playmates did the same thing, in unison, running and screaming at Katie. That really did it. Katie became very afraid of small children, and it took her several years to get over that fear. Now she’s very tolerant, but can still react negatively to a group of noisy children or even college students, especially girls.”
Another problem Gary continues to encounter on his walks is dangerous litter left around campus, such as chocolate and chicken bones.
“There are a few people here who seem to have a problem grasping the concept of trash and recycle bins, and the grounds people here often don’t have the resources to clean up after them,” Gary observed.
“I will say, however, that it’s vastly better today than a few years back. I do still find myself pulling a chocolate chip cookie or a whole bagel out of Puck or Katie’s mouth on occasion.”
Regardless of these issues, Puck and Katie’s campus walks have been generally positive experiences for themselves, Gary, and the flocks of students who call themselves fans. They’ve allowed Gary, who calls himself a “staunch individualist,” to observe his dogs’ minds at work. Coming to campus for his walks has also given Gary the opportunity to see how UCSD has changed throughout the years. As a former cancer researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Gary has enjoyed seeing UCSD develop its campus.
“When I first started coming here, there was nothing built besides Muir and Revelle, and there were only about 6,000 students. Now the campus is totally unrecognizable,” he commented.
As for the impact his corgis have had on the UCSD community, Gary is thrilled about being able to bring so much happiness to students every day.
“It’s de-stressing to me to see people smile and laugh … I could have used a few corgi sessions when I was a student 50-odd years ago.”