Pet therapy crafts community

Izzy ManzoCopy Editor

Lorette Feivelson, first started going to pet therapy sessions because of her love for dogs, but said she soon found herself as part of a tight knit community.

Feivelson, a sophomore, history and secondary education major, said she has been attending since her freshman year, when she became part of a grad student’s study on how therapy animals impact mental health. She was required to go for five weeks, but said she enjoyed it so much she decided to keep coming after the study ended.

“From there, I was like, ‘Wow, this really does help my mental health,’” she said, “and it’s kind of a thing that I make time for now.”

She said that the dogs help her to relieve stress.

“The nice thing about animals is that they love you no matter what,” said Feivelson. “I think that’s something that college students need desperately.”

Dayana Hernandez, a freshman, social work major, went to pet therapy for the first time after her friend told her about it.

“I always wanted to do it but I never knew when they were coming,” said Hernandez, “so when [my friend] messaged me I was like, ‘Of course. Definitely.’”

Hernandez said that being able to spend time with therapy dogs was relaxing because it reminded her of when she used to have puppies.

“Now I don’t have any dogs at home,” she said, “so when I play with dogs…I get happy and I feel more relieved.”

Feivelson said for some people, being able to spend time with therapy dogs is a form of self-care.

“I’m a super busy person,” Feivelson said.

Being on an e-board and in the Honors College, she said takes up most of her time.

“It’s nice to stop and do something for me that’s for me,” said Feivelson, “and that isn’t work.”

She said that as she kept going to pet therapy, she got to know people that frequents the sessions.

“As time went on, I got to know a bunch of people who were the regulars here,” said Feivelson. “It was nice to get to talk…and have this group of people that you might not see on campus that much, but here you know that when you come here you can come and talk to someone. There’s a kind of trust and community that’s been built here in a funny way.”

Elaine Allen, a social worker at the counseling center, said she has been doing pet therapy with her Dalmation, Cosmo, for a year and a half. She first decided to get involved after seeing how much the dogs benefitted people.

“We had volunteers with Pet Partners, which is the national group that certifies pet therapy teams,” said Allen. “I just kind of observed…how the dogs facilitated interaction with the students that were coming and thought, ‘I have a sweet dog at home!’”

She also said that as time went on, the “regulars” became a close group.

“I think it’s actually one of the more diverse spaces on campus in terms of attracting people with all different interests and backgrounds,” she said. “None of us can resist a wagging tail!”

Photo Credit: Jeff Lamson

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