PIQUA — Many consider the companionship of a pet to be invaluable. Pets not only bring joy to people’s lives, they also contribute to a healthier lifestyle. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, pets can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels, while also curbing feelings of loneliness. In addition, pets increase opportunities for outdoor exercise and socialization.
With the benefit of students in mind, Edison State Community College has recently welcomed Eddie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, to campus. While just 12 weeks in age, Eddie will begin professional training with the Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association (mvPTa) to become a certified therapy dog when he turns one year in age.
To complete training and graduate, Eddie must first pass his classes, which span over an eight-week period. During this time, Eddie’s handler will also receive instruction on how to conduct a pet therapy session.
Velina Bogart, Eddie’s handler and coordinator of Disability Services and Success adviser at Edison State, has already started bringing Eddie to campus to help socialize and prepare him for life as a therapy dog.
“There are several prerequisites to being accepted into mvPTa,” Bogart said. “For example, Eddie must be confident, calm, and cooperative as well as get along with other pets and people. Eddie must also understand basic obedience commands, such as sit, stay, and down prior to attending mvPTa. He will also need to be able to walk calmly through a crowd of people, which is something he is already learning to do here at Edison State.”
While he has only been on campus for a short time, Eddie is already proving to be top dog.
“Eddie already has quite a following. He has repeat student, faculty, and staff visitors every day and he loves seeing each one as they stop by.”
“Most people have been very receptive to having a dog on campus and love seeing Eddie walk in the door,” Bogart added. “Some people do not like dogs or pets, and I get that. Before I take a student to my office, I always ask if they are okay with dogs or have any allergies. If so, my co-workers have been very helpful in taking care of Eddie when he needs to go out, and I’m with a student.”
Bogart came up with the idea of having a therapy dog on campus after seeing quite a few students who were stressed, especially around final exam time.
“Several faculty members have already been asking for me to bring Eddie to their testing sessions to help lower the stress levels in the room. Once Eddie is officially trained, he will be able to sit in the testing room with students.”
“With some background and education in mental health, I’ve seen how animals can affect a person’s mood. The therapy animal can bring a sense of calmness and lower stress levels by simply re-focusing the student’s thoughts for just a moment.”
While Eddie’s objective will be to provide students with therapeutic relief, his function will differ from that of a service dog. Service dogs help with performing a specific function for someone who lives with physical or emotional limitations. Therapy dogs provide affection and comfort to those who may be confined to hospitals, nursing homes, or other facilities. On college campuses, therapy dogs are most often being trained to help people deal with anxiety and stress.
“Therapy dogs distract people from other concerns and worries, and simply brighten their day,” Bogart explained. “Eddie will provide that same affection and comfort to distressed students on the Edison State campus. Students, faculty, and staff can stop by my office to visit with Eddie at any time.”
For more information about the Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association and their services, visit mvpta.com.