Bo Goes to College

Most people think about pet therapy visits as going to visit hospitals and nursing homes…that visits are usually to visit senior citizens. That’s the way our visits started out when we got involved with pet assisted therapy. We have enjoyed many of those and continue to visit many facilities with seniors. But we’ve found an entirely different group of individuals that benefit from our visits that most people don’t always think about needing some stress relief: college students.

I have a 22-year-old daughter that has always had a close relationship with Bo. It wasn’t until after she headed off to college in another city that it occurred to us that there was another age group of people that would greatly benefit from visits from therapy dogs. I was lucky to have a friend working as a nurse on one of the campuses in my city. As with so many people I meet, I mentioned that I do pet therapy with Bo. She helped me arrange for Midlands Pet Therapy to start going to their campus events and dormitory buildings to visit the students there. This is our fourth year we have had the working relationship with this college to come down to visit the students and we get more and more requests each year for more visits.

Many of our visits are scheduled for weeks when the students are really stressed studying for mid-terms or finals. We have also visited in the early fall when freshmen started to show signs of homesickness. Most people think about these young adults going away from home for the first time and missing Mom, Dad, siblings, their bed, their friends from high school, etc. They can talk to friends and family on the phone, but they can’t talk to or pet their pets back at home.

Every time we walk through the campus of this college we hear so many times, “Look!  A dog!  Ohhhhh, I miss my dog!”  It can take us quite awhile to get to the building we’re scheduled to visit the students in because we have to stop over and over for the students around the rest of the campus to pet Bo. I’ve also seen how happy Bo is to get the attention from these young adults because she really misses my daughter. (Yes, when going back to school after breaks, my daughter has to pack in private so Bo doesn’t get depressed before she leaves. After she is gone, Bo gets very clingy with me. “Mom! She left me again.” )

Sunday we headed down to visit some of the students in one of the dorms on our nearby campus. As usual, I went to the closet to get Bo’s bag of visit supplies (shot records, poop bags, water dish, etc.). She was right there waiting for me to slip a bandana around her neck and then she took off downstairs to head to the car.

The RA for this dorm had done a wonderful job of putting the word out to the students living in this dormitory: the dogs are coming! There were posters by the elevators, emails and posts on Facebook. Seven dogs convinced their handlers to make the drive across town so they could do their magic. We had a good variety of breeds and sizes this time – everything from a Papillon to a miniature Schnauzer to Bo (a Norwegian Elkhound) to a Greyhound and a Lab mix.

The lobby was full of furry bodies looking for attention and love. There were many students that stopped as they were either coming back from lunch or leaving for other activities. How could they not stop when they saw those faces looking at them with that “Come pet me!” look? Bo settled in next to the RA that set up our visit and got her back scratched and massaged. I was relieved when I asked Bo if she was ready to go home and she got up without too much convincing. I believe she would’ve stayed all afternoon as long as someone was giving her attention! This is a very relaxing type of visit for our dogs as they can lay down on the floor and the students will get right down there with them.

We wish my daughter and students all over the country good luck with their mid-terms and finals coming up. We hope our visits have helped to take the edge off of the studying stress just a bit (and reminded them that their own furry friends are waiting for them this summer back home!)

Jill & Bo

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