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Therapy dogs are a hit with Loyalist students

By Shelby Wye

BELLEVILLE – Several dogs came to Loyalist College to wag their tails, play fetch and de-stress students this week.

Sarah Michelle Ogden, Loyalist’s health and wellness practitioner, invited the St. John Ambulance program to the school to help reduce students’ exam-season stress. Studies have shown that interacting with dogs and other animals can assist in lowering stress levels and calming people.

 “It’s been really great so far,” said Ogden. “People are filling out the (guest book) and it seems like there’s been a lot of students who have stopped by.”

 Julia Cook and Katherine Daley, students in the social-service program, were cuddling with Bandit on Monday. Running their fingers through his long fur, they commented that it was the first time they had stopped thinking about exams since the month began.

 They chatted with the program co-ordinator, Joyce Fowler, about how much Bandit loves belly rubs.

 “All of our dogs go through special training to be here,” Fowler explained. “They have to be calm, nice, and sweet.”

The volunteers all personally own the dogs that they bring, and they have to go through training along with their dogs before being allowed to be part of St. John Ambulance’s dog-therapy program. The dogs have to prove themselves to be especially kind, playful and obedient, because they will find themselves in hospitals, schools and retirement homes.

 Hundreds of Loyalist students have already stopped by to visit the dogs, snapping photos and talking about their own dogs. Exams and tests are far from their minds as they give belly rubs to the dogs and toss tennis balls.

The dogs will be in Loyalist’s gym through Wednesday and in the Residence Commons on Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.