Relieve some stress and gently pet a dog


Tamonda GriffithsEditor-In-Chief

Big bright eyes, shiny black fur and a calm disposition – these were just a few ways of how students and Pet Partners volunteer handler Suzanne Porter would describe Luna.

“Luna is a rescue [dog],” said Porter. “So, it’s some kind of lab mix. We were told maybe a flat coat retriever – which is a real breed, I looked it up – and it’s like a black golden retriever.”

Porter said she and Luna had been involved with Pet Partners for over four years.

“It was something I always wanted to do,” said Porter. “I always knew there was a therapeutic element to animals, especially both horses and dogs.”

Porter, who is also a special education teacher, said she also does reading therapy with her students during which they read aloud to Luna in order to get better at reading. Porter also acts as an instructor to others training to become Pet Partner volunteers themselves.

“The training is basic obedience, like ‘come, sit, stay’ and then a little extra,” said Porter. “They have to be able to tolerate loud noises, sudden movements, people who may have jerky movements – like in a hospital, like, you might find in a hospital setting walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, sometimes. They have to be able to walk by another dog without reacting.”

Porter said. although she has gone through this training, she does not qualify as a dog trainer, but as a dog handler. Porter and Luna were swarmed by a crowd of over 30 eager students on the third floor of the Adanti Student Center in the ballroom atrium on Thursday, Sept. 26. The students were there to join in on Counseling Services Programming and Outreach’s weekly Pet Therapy.

“It was a collective thing started years ago, and it went from being once or twice [per] semester to, ‘maybe we can do it more to being something that students can enjoy weekly’,” said Mary Xatse, Counseling Services graduate intern and coordinator for Pet Therapy, “so, I am grateful that when it started it was already something that people saw the benefits in, so it’s just an amazing part of what I do.”

According to a survey of 246 college students conducted by the University of British Columbia, interactions with therapy dogs can have positive lasting effects even more than 10 hours later. English major, Sophia Oneto, a junior, said Pet Therapy was a “great way to end the day.”

“It’s a pretty friendly – it’s a friendly environment,” said Oneto, “you know, like all the people are just here to pet dogs and chill.” Oneto said after particularly stressful days throughout her college career, being able to finish the day with petting a dog was very helpful in reducing that stress that she has.”

She had originally found the event, she said, to fulfill the health and wellness criteria for her freshman Inquiry class.

“I’ve been coming to this thing since I was [a] freshman,” said Oneto. Getting to interact with dogs and complete an assignment simultaneously, Oneto said, was a “yes” for her.

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