Therapy dogs brings relief to MU students

Dr. Baltzer and Dr. House explain how dog therapy can help students

Photo courtesy of Dr. Baltzer

Alexander Bershtein 

Staff Writer

Pet Therapy in a service undertaken currently by therapy dogs on campus. Al- though cuteness a cuddliness may be the presumed purpose by students who hap- pen to come across the session, Dr. Backels, Dr. Baltzer, and Dr. House see methods of destressing and treating homesickness.

Golden retrievers are the most common dog used in therapy.(Photo courtesy of Dr. Baltzer)

Dr. Baltzer is the AOD, the councilor for Alcohol and Other Drugs, at the coun- seling center in Lyle Hall. He is common- ly known as Willow’s dad by students and faculty who constantly frolic Lyle Hall. Willow is his dog as well as the counsel- ing center’s pet therapy dog. She is the counseling center’s first and currently only therapy dog. Willow has been get- ting tummy-rubs for four years now. She happily does her job from 8am-5pm on Wednesdays, and 8am-4pm on Fridays. 

He said, “She’s got quite a follow- ing. We have a lot of kids who will stop in here on Wednesdays and Fri- days who don’t have appointments just to say hello. There are those peo- ple that make will their appointments on Wednesdays and Fridays because they know Willow is going to be here.”

“A couple of percent of students who come in here are really uncomfortable around animals. And for those that aren’t comfortable she makes them relaxed. She takes away that anxiety and defensiveness.” Dr. Baltzer explained that even people who have gotten trauma from dog bites and so forth have gotten better with exposure to Willow.

Dr. Lisa House is a psychologist that works at Lyle Hall’s Counseling center. The handlers sign up for time spots. Students talk to the owners/han- dlers about the dogs, give dogs treats, pet the dogs, and watch the dogs do tricks. This was started five years ago, in the Fall of 2012 by Dr. Backels. Dr. Backels came up with the idea for to create relationships between these therapy dog organizations and the university to help destress students here at Millersville. It could help give them a break from their hard work. Every 3rd Tuesday of the month from 7pm-8pm in the Francine Mc- Nairy Library atrium by the couches near the Starbucks there is multiple therapy dogs. There is an average of 200-300 students, it is unknown whether it is planned or by choice. During finals week, an organiza- tion known as K-Pets is brought in on Monday-Wednesday from 12-5pm, two dogs every hour, there is a rotation as

the dogs get tired. There are an aver- age 300-500 students who attend. This is both offered annually for finals week.

Dr. Lisa House, Dr. Kelsey Backels, and graduate assistant Chelsea Neal are publishing an article based on their re- search and findings with the college students who have interacted with the therapy dogs. They surveyed students last semester during finals week and ap- proximately 235 of them completed the survey. They found that 68% of students reported feeling homesick and 98% of students reported being stressed out. With 100% of those that reported home- sickness felt better after the dog therapy, the homesickness subsided. They also found that 87% of students felt that their stress was relieved to a high degree. With 13% reported moderate stress relief and 25% of the students learned about the therapy dog program during finals week.

Dr. House says that dogs are avail- able now, and she is devoted to finding cats for the program as well in the future.

Dog therapy has been a tech- nique used for many years now, being used at hospitals, retirement homes, schools and disaster areas. Golden Retrievers are commonly used for ther

apy because of their calm demeanor.