Angel Paws therapy dogs visit the Beauchamp Addiction Recovery Center

Robbie, a 1-year-old service dog, is pet by his owner, Meredith Owen, Baylor pre-med student and starter of the "let them eat kibble" initiative in Waco. Robbie met college kids and is a part of Angel Paws, who were present at the BARC on Wednesday night. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Holly Luttrell | Reporter

Angel Paws therapy dogs visited the new Beauchamp Addiction Recovery Center (BARC) on Wednesday evening to help lift students’ spirits and feel comfortable in the space.

Angel Paws is a local nonprofit organization that brings therapy dogs to people in need around the community. The dogs are all owned by volunteers in the program and are trained to be comfortable around large crowds of people who rely on them for mental or emotional support.

Angel Paws dog handler Nicole Wilson said there are between 20-25 dogs in their group.

“We go to the Waco Center for Youth, the juvenile detention center, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and pretty much anywhere we’re invited where people need stress relief,” Wilson said.

On Wednesday evening, the BARC welcomed four dogs and their handlers to visit with students in the center. The dogs wandered around the room, moseying from person to person while they eagerly crowded around the animals to pet them or give them treats.

“For this particular event, they bring stress relief, a good time and a time to relax,” Wilson said.

The BARC opened this fall in the East Village Residential Community. It is an extension of the Baylor Counseling Center and the Wellness Office that serves Baylor students who are working to recover from an addiction. The center offers resources and a supportive community to students who are facing addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling or anything else. Students are welcome to visit the center for social activities, group meetings or individual guidance.

Recovery Program Coordinator Lilly Ettinger said bringing these dogs to the addiction recovery center is an important and effective way to support students.

“Angel paws are stress reduction therapy animals,” Ettinger said. “They provide stress reduction, which we know and have scientific evidence of.”

The therapy dogs were brought to the BARC to help students relax and be comfortable in the new space. While the dogs were there, students were encouraged to make themselves at home in building and explore everything the BARC has to offer.

“We want to help people come in this space,” said Ettinger. “We’re obviously a brand new space and I feel like this is not a stigmatized space. We do things for everyone here.”

Angel Paws therapy dogs visited the BARC to help bridge the gap between the center and the students it serves. Visiting students could relax for a couple of hours, interact with the animals, make themselves comfortable in the new addiction recovery center and explore the resources it offers.