Canines on campus soothe stressed students

Pups like these work to assist and soothe students while on the job. Photo courtesy of Brenna Colihan

By Olivia Turner | Staff Writer

When going about campus on a busy day, it’s not uncommon to see a dog or two accompanying one of the many students rushing to get to their next class. While some of these dogs are simply pets, some of them serve their owners in more ways than just being a “man’s best friend.”

According to the Office of Access and Learning Accommodation, both service animals and emotional support animals are allowed to stay on campus with their owners with proper documentation.

Although OALA declined a request for information as to how many service dogs reside on Baylor campus, there are about 500,000 total working service dogs in the United States. In addition to service dogs, emotional support animals and therapy animals also serve to support their owners, including some of Baylor’s students.

“Therapy animals are animals that are specifically trained to help calm and just be supportive for a variety of people,” said Katy junior Brenna Colihan, Director of Accessibility for Student Government.

Service dogs can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000, and emotional support animals are not entitled to public access on Baylor campus, Colihan said.

Baylor allows different organizations to bring their therapy dogs to campus for students to visit with, Colihan said. According to a study done by The Zebra, the nation’s leading independent insurance comparison site, visits like these are extremely effective in calming students and lowering cortisol levels after just ten minutes with the dogs.

Jean Ann Jones, who has brought her King Charles cavalier therapy dogs registered with Angel Paws and Pet Partners Inc. to campus for visitation with students, said she has witnessed their calming effect on many occasions.

“They are very loving, they are very joyful, that’s one thing I love about them,” Jones said. “They really don’t care what you look like, they don’t care what you believe or any of that. They just go right up and they love on everybody the same.”

Jones, a Baylor alumnus, said she refrained from inquiring about students’ mental health when she brought her cavaliers Piper and Presley to campus, but that she simply introduced her pups to students for them to pet and spend time with. Leaving a pet at home can be a traumatic experience for some, Jones said, which is one of the reasons why she has made so many visits to Baylor.

Another therapy dog owner also registered with Angel Paws, Suzi Wiseman, said she has also felt the high demand for therapy dogs.

“We could do this work full time, seven days a week, because there’s so many people who really appreciate this sort of assistance,” Wiseman said.

To help keep up with the demand, Wiseman said she encourages any students who have dogs that they believe would make good therapy dogs, to get them trained now.

Wiseman said she recommends enrolling at McLennan Community College’s K9 Mutt Training Course, where a trainer will observe the relationship between dog and owner, determine if the dog has the aptitude to become a therapy dog and finally instruct how to train the dog properly. Wiseman and her dogs currently serve as demonstration dogs for the course, she said.

“Take that course even if you’re experienced and even if your dog’s really well trained,” Wiseman said. “I can promise you, you will learn more.”