Therapy dogs could better serve Baylor population

By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer

Nine-hundred forty-seven miles and 14 hours and 5 minutes. That’s how far I am from home, and I’m one of the lucky students who is only two states away rather than across the country.

The biggest thing I knew I’d miss when I decided to become an out-of-state student was, of course, my family, my friends and the comfort of home, but nothing really amounted to the little void I had knowing I’d be leaving my dogs.

I remember when applying to college, I was really debating between the University of North Texas and Baylor. Texas was the place I wanted to be, and it ultimately came down to which school gave me a better sense of home and would provide the most opportunity.

I’m not going to lie though, a huge point of interest at UNT was its dog therapy program near the center of campus. Dog therapy is a way of using service animals to help students overall cope with emotions and relieve stress through playing with dogs. Their program runs 3 days a week, for an hour each day. I was excited to know that Baylor had something similar, although it was only one or two times a month.

After the program was moved from Moody Memorial Library to East Village at the Beauchamp Addiction Recovery Center (BARC), I wasn’t excited to learn that the only opportunity to see the dogs would be on the opposite side of campus, where being a journalism major, I’d never find myself.

Don’t get me wrong, coming to Baylor, I knew that this was a science and business dominated school. With a growing business department following the beautiful building renovation, and its renowned medical program, I understand why the dog therapy would be on that side of campus. People know Earle Hall and Teal Residential College literally radiate stress and anxiety.

But there are a few things to consider. Like the fact that other pre-med, pre-law or students in general, don’t find themselves on that side of campus, especially that late in the afternoon unless they have a late class or live there.

This month, for example, therapy dogs will be available from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Feb. 19 and 7 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 21. According to Baylor’s housing page, Earle and Teal only hold around 700 students in comparison to over 4,100 of on-campus students that live on the west side of campus. The convenience of the dog therapy program is only appealing to 17 percent of on-campus students.

Another thing to note is that with winter approaching, the sun setting around 6 p.m. and the naturally weariness of walking in the dark, going to the far East end of campus isn’t ideal for students in dorms like Brooks Residential College, Collins Residence Hall or North or South Russell Residence Halls. Usually a 10 to 15 minute walk, the trip alone is time-consuming for us who have assignments and just want a quick drop-by. With service cars not beginning until 9 p.m. and with the time of therapy dogs sometimes around 7 p.m., there’s no other choice than to figure it out by choosing to walk or somehow commute.

These are little inconveniences I’ve noticed in the program which I think easily could be solved by hosting it in a more universal spot on campus. Somewhere like Moody Memorial Library (like it used to in 2017), the upper-levels of the Bill Daniels Student Center or somewhere toward the middle of campus, I think would create a bigger turnout and would make the program easier for students to access.

The program is great and useful to students, especially those who are a little homesick. I just believe Baylor needs a better way to execute it and make easier for students who aren’t able to make the trip across campus.