Dallying with dogs improves student mental health


Libby Camp, Staff Writer

Tight circles of grinning, kneeling students usually reveal flashes of a wagging tail or a lolling tongue.

Thirty-seven percent of households in the U.S. have a dog, according to the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook.

Vermont has the highest percentage of pet-owning households, as 70.8 percent of all households have a pet, the Sourcebook said.

College is the first time many students are living away from home, and the comfort brought by therapy dogs is greatly appreciated, according to an April 2017 Alliance for Therapy Dogs article said.

“Dog time” has incredible therapeutic effects for students and even professors, the article said.

Pet therapy can improve cardiovascular health, decrease anxiety and depressive thoughts, increase socialization and increase a sense of community, the PAWS for People website states.

Sophomore Caroline Franks has a dog at home and often misses her furry friend, she said.

“I just miss my dog,” Franks said. “So it’s good to just pet one sometimes.”

Therapy dogs are great because dogs are creatures that live to please, sophomore Kenzie Hines said.

”When you get that connection [with the dog],” Hines said,  “it’s awesome for the service dog and the person.”

Dogs also have an inherently intuitive and caring nature, she said.

“One time I was really sick but I had to take care of my dog, and he was super sensitive to that,” Hines said. “We would go on walks and he would wait for me. Dogs just know.”

Visiting Church Street on a nice afternoon, one can see that Burlington is populated with dog owners.

Raha, a Burlington resident, advocates dog time and praises his small black mutt named Buddha.

“I found him in El Paso, Texas nine months ago,” Raha said. “He’s just love incarnate.”

Rescuing Buddha was like something out of a movie, he said.

“Buddha was running across a four lane highway, and I heard the screeching of other cars,” Raha said. “I pulled to the side of the road and opened the van door, he jumped in and he’s been with me ever since.”

Deborah, another Burlington resident, used to evaluate therapy dogs for Therapy Dogs of Vermont, she said.

Deborah has an Australian labradoodle named Remy from Green Mountain Labradoodles, she said.

Remy’s soft fur and deep chocolate eyes attract lots of eager pats and photos, Deborah said.

Julia Curry, another resident walking her pooch on Church Street, has a 15-year-old dog named Elliott, who is always there for her when she is feeling down, she said.

“Owning a dog and having to take care of another creature takes me out of any problems I may be having,” Curry said. “Their unconditional love is something we can all learn from.”

“I’m going to train Elliott to be a therapy dog,” she said, and also expressed interest in volunteering with the UVM therapy dog program.

Dogs are not allowed in UVM dorms, unless they are an officially registered therapy or comfort animal, according to the UVM Student Affairs regulations on service animals.

For those who wish to have a dog be part of their residential life at UVM, students can contact the Student Accessibility Services office to formally request comfort animal certification, the Student Affairs regulations said.

Despite the lack of dogs in dorms, when Franks spots a dog anywhere on campus, she wants to cry with happiness, she said.

Franks also appreciates the therapy dogs provided to the campus through Living Well and Therapy Dogs of Vermont, she said.

The UVM therapy dog program meets from noon to 1 p.m. every Friday in the Davis center.
You can meet Cabot the black lab, Tucker the golden retriever or any other therapy dogs that volunteer their love and licks at UVM.