Dogs soothe midterm stress


Mary-Lynn Retassie

Freshman Josh Salava pets therapy dog Shaylee in Owen Library on Oct. 17.

Matt Churella, News Editor

Although therapy dogs usually arrive on campus at a semester’s end, Owen Library librarian April Kelley said the library staff had wanted to host dogs for students to relieve mid-term stress.

On Oct. 17, two therapy dogs, a great Bernese mountain dog named Shaylee and an English springer spaniel named Ellie, stayed in Owen Library for three hours courtesy of Golden Girls Pet Therapy, a volunteer organization formed by Johnstown resident Christine Fogle in 1999.

Shaylee comforted her owner, Jaimie Miller, after a back surgery. Miller said she wanted to share her personal dog’s comfort with others, forming a program called Tales With Tails.

“Shaylee was a great benefit to me, so I wanted to get her trained to share her with others,” Miller said.

However, the tails group, according to Miller, aims to take therapy dogs to college campuses and to about a dozen elementary schools.

Miller added that the Golden Girls organization focuses more on visiting hospitals and nursing homes.

Miller said therapy dogs can relieve stress and lower a person’s blood pressure, but she said there’s training that should be completed, in addition to a mandatory test, before a dog becomes certified as a therapy dog.

“It’s a lot of basic commands. When you’re walking in a hospital, if there’s something on the floor, you have to be able to tell the dog to leave it and not pick it up.”

Mindy Leonard, a Golden Girls volunteer, got her dog, Ellie, as a birthday present.

Leonard said that not every dog has qualifications to be a therapy dog.

“(Ellie)’s pretty good at it. She has a calm demeanor.”

Leonard said, when Ellie first became a therapy dog, kids would come up to her in tears, asking for Leonard’s permission to hug Ellie because they had just failed their tests.

At least 30 students visited the therapy dogs within the first half hour last Wednesday, among them was freshman Alyssa Geroux, who said she misses her dog from home.

Miller told a student at the event that the therapy dogs are to return in December, but it’s unclear when and where on campus that is to take place.