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Pet Therapy relieves stress, induces smiles

November 14, 2014

UW-River Falls students scratched the ears and rubbed the bellies of five dogs for an afternoon of Pet Therapy to relieve stress and homesickness.

Pet therapy is on the first Friday of every month from 3-4 p.m. Students were urged to walk into Health and Counseling Services, located in 211 Hagestad Hall, for some canine fun.

Students do not have to schedule an appointment. Anyone may join in the therapy anytime during the one hour.

Management and Marketing Professor Claire McCarty (right) tells her dog “Lucky,” a terrier mix, to shake hands with UWRF student Tina Kreuser (middle).

Management and Marketing Professor Claire McCarty (right) tells her dog “Lucky,” a terrier mix, to shake hands with UWRF student Tina Kreuser (middle). (Maggie Sanders/Student Voice)

The five dogs that were part of the therapy were a mixture of little and big. Each dog was a different breed as well.

Ellie is a brown lab and cocker mix, owned by Lynean Cronick, a retired teacher. When Cronick retired, she wanted something to do, and she loves animals. So, she had Ellie go through behavior training for two years and then had six weeks of therapy dog training. This is Ellie’s first year as part of Pet Therapy at UWRF.

Mia is a small grey schnauzer poodle, owned by Nora Reid. Reid also works with autistic children from the ages of 12 to 21 and brings Mia with her to work. Mia is accustomed to desensitize some of the children who are scared of dogs, as well as teaching the children how to take care of animals.

Lucky is a small black terrier mix that is owned by Professor of Management and Marketing Claire McCarty.

Pepper is a black medium- sized hound mix that is owned by Sarah Smits, an associate clinical professor.

Alden is a large black lab who is owned by Wanda Schlesser, the director of field experience and student teaching office.

Jennifer Elsesser is a counselor and she founded Pet Therapy two years ago at the Health and Counseling Services. According to Elsesser, Pet Therapy can help students relieve stress, as well as homesickness. Some students miss their own dogs that they have at home and the therapy helps them re-connect with a dog.

Elsesser would like to make some changes, and have additions to the pet therapy, such as having a dog available for students to meet alone but they would have to schedule an appointment.

The students themselves know the benefits of meeting with the dogs. Such as Pedro, an international exchange student who misses his dog back home.

UWRF student Rebecca Charles loves animals and Pet Therapy helps her relieve stress. Sam Wallick sees the therapy as a way to “escape all the homework, all the tests, all the hardships, and get here and have a nice time.”

For most students, this was their first time at Pet Therapy but they liked that it’s available to de-stress and is relaxing.

It was UWRF student Jackie Samuelson’s first time and she misses her home, and her dogs, and sees the therapy as helpful.

In order for a dog to be considered a therapy dog, the animal must go through training with Therapy Dogs International (TDI). The test consists of taking the dog away from the handler where the dog cannot see the handler and perform commands such as sit and stay. Other portions of the test include identifying how the dog reacts around wheelchairs, crutches, and loud noises. It’s considered an automatic failure if the dog shows aggressiveness, resisting examination, pulling, lunging and shyness.

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