By Natalie Alden
During Midterm and Finals week, office manager and event coordinator Heidi Tend, along with the CAPS office (Counseling and Psychological Services), organizes therapy dogs to provide stress relief from students, especially during hard academic times. Due to the Pandemic, It has been over a year since students have been back on campus and, according to the associate director of clinical services and operations/outreach coordinator, Cynthia Cutshall, student stress has been at an all-time high. The recurrence of the Therapy Dog events shows SMC is dedicated to providing this service, however, with students returning to campus with new stresses accumulated from the pandemic, the need for more Therapy Dog events may be necessary.
The Therapy Dog events seem to be a reoccurring event on campus because of the positive response from students. Saint Mary's student Maria Soe explains how the therapy dogs helped her wellbeing, especially as a first-year student. “The therapy dogs definitely made me feel happier because it was my first year here (since I first went to the event as a freshman), it was a good event to meet new people and made me feel more comfortable with the campus. It was nice going to an event that had nothing to do with schoolwork and it helped me unwind a bit.” Teddi Thiele-Sardina, a Senior at Saint Mary’s, echoes this point of the therapy dogs being extremely beneficial and also highlights the positivity the therapy dogs bring to campus. “I'm a dog person, I love the Therapy Dog events. They are so helpful to students. Seeing students' faces light up seeing dogs is so wonderful.”
Several students think an increase in Therapy Dog events on campus is necessary. “I think it would definitely be beneficial if we had more events because personally, I've been really stressed with school, and Covid-19 is another thing that I've been really mindful about, so having an event would help put my mind off of all that stuff for a bit,” states Maria Soe. Similarly, Aero England, a Senior at Saint Mary’s added, “Yes! I think more pet therapy sessions would be really helpful for students! I feel like seeing animals with the sweetest little faces is such a great way to make people smile!” This connection between the therapy dogs and the students seems to be strong. “I especially love seeing the dog named Joey, a little pomeranian,” states Teddi Thiele-Sardina.
The increase of these Therapy Dog events, although it might help with student mentality during the academic year, might be unlikely due to the coordinating difficulties CAPS has had booking the therapy dogs. “The organization we use for the dog therapy (Laps Loving Animals based in Napa) has not started up their program yet because of Covid-19. We are currently using volunteers, however, at the last dog therapy event SMC only had 5 dogs at the wellness fair in comparison to the previous year where we've had 8 or 9,” states Heidi Tend. Tend hopes by the new year the organization will start up again to provide more therapy dogs.
The upcoming Therapy Dog event for finals week is on December 1st at the Stress Management Fair. With the possible increase of therapy dogs and the positive feeling of students, more Therapy Dog events on campus could be a possibility.
Melanie Moyer '22,