New therapy dogs to soothe UVM students

With many students’ first exams coming up, some are “going to the dogs” to reduce stress.

Upperclassmen will remember Tucker, LivingWell’s resident therapy Golden Retriever, who hosted “office hours” for students to interact with him.

Tucker has since moved to Redstone campus to work in the Wellness Environment with his owner Jeff Rettew, Associate Director of the Wellness Environment.

Tucker’s popularity and success has inspired LivingWell to introduce three new dogs to the program: Jack, Cabot and Teegan.

“It is definitely one of our most popular programs,” Martha Allen of Living Well said. “The response has been overwhelming.”

The dogs, owned and volunteered by UVM staff members, are all certified therapy animals.teegan_color

Therapy dogs have helped victims of past tragedies, such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

According to the National Center for Health Research, the “social support a pet provides can make a person feel more relaxed and decrease stress.”

People naturally feel at ease around therapy animals, which can encourage victims of trauma to open up and express how they are feeling.

A December 2012 National Geographic article says that dogs are one of the few species of animals that are naturally friendly and not afraid of strangers.

In fact, they love them. There is evidence that dogs even feel empathy and respond when they see people crying.

Sophomore Alex Kulungian was having a tough first week of school, but he says petting a dog at LivingWell significantly helped.

“Meeting with Cabot was very therapeutic,” Kulungian said. “Human-to-dog contact is so good because dogs are such positive, friendly animals. Cabot is a very happy dog.”

However, some researchers have found that animal therapy may not be as effective as believed.

A 2014 November Psychology Today article explains that, though countless studies show the benefits of therapy animal interactions, most “clinical trials on the effectiveness of animal assisted therapy are so methodologically flawed that their conclusions cannot be trusted.”

LivingWell has one of their dogs on duty each Friday at noon on the first floor of the Davis Center.