The big dogs on campus: welcoming two new therapy dogs

The+big+dogs+on+campus%3A+welcoming+two+new+therapy+dogs

Murray
Murray

Last week, Pet Away Worry and Stress @ Mac (PAWS) announced it would welcome two new therapy dogs, Finnegan and Murray, to its program. The dogs, both owned by Assistant Editor of Communications and Public Relations, Cheryl Doucette, are the newest edition to the program that allows students to destress by spending time with therapy dogs. The addition of the two golden retrievers will add two more hours in which students can pet their worries away on campus. Student handler for PAWS @ Mac, Emma Swanson ’16 said that so far the duo has made a seamless transition into the program, proving popular during library visit sessions.

“People seemed really excited! Murray is still almost a puppy, which is very exciting,” Swanson said.

Finnegan and Murray hold office hours from 1-2 p.m. in the library on Mondays. Kevin, the Golden Retriever owned by Dr. Steph Walters, Health and Wellness Medical Director, will continue to host his regularly scheduled office hours on Monday and Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. in the Leonard Center and every Monday at 3 p.m. in the library.

Like Kevin, Finnegan and Murray have undergone training to provide therapeutic experiences to the students they serve. Ten year-old Finnegan has been a therapy dog for six years while two year-old Murray recently earned his stripes as a therapy dog when he passed his obedience exam in March 2015.

The mission of the PAWS program is “to bring comfort, joy and snuggle time to the Mac community.”

Finnegan
Finnegan

The PAWS program was piloted this past fall by Dr. Walters, her dog Kevin and students like Swanson. Four student volunteers completed therapy dog handler training this past summer.

PAWS looks forward to expanding the program in the future.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from other people wanting to get involved with PAWS,” Swanson said. “We want as much community involvement as possible.” Though Kevin is currently the star of the program, there’s room for more for expansion. “We don’t mind other people being involved. We don’t want Kevin to be the only therapy dog on campus,” says Swanson.

While the PAWS pack is rather homogeneous with golden retrievers at the moment, students can often be heard in the library misidentifying Finnegan or Murray for Kevin, Swanson said the organization would love to “diversify the kinds of dog breeds” students can take a break with. “People connect differently with different types of dogs, so we’d like to see the breeds spread out a bit so people who are comfortable with smaller dogs also have an option,” says Swanson.

Swanson added that she thought that having opportunities to connect with Kevin, Finnegan and Murray had been beneficial to the students and campus community. “Missing pets is one of the hardest parts of transitioning to college for a lot of students, and having dogs around can be really helpful and calming to students.”