If you are a dog lover it’s easy for you to understand, but for people that aren’t, the healing power of dogs is a strange mystery. What is it about the feel of fur and a soft warm tongue that can make us dog lovers feel better after a long day? What could possibly be soothing about lying next to a dog who can’t even talk you about the way that you’re feeling? I don’t think the healing power of dogs can be put into words. No matter which way I try and describe it, it just doesn’t seem like enough.
Therapy dogs are one of the most special creatures on Earth. It is their job to visit nursing homes, hospitals, schools, and anywhere else where there are people who need a furry shoulder to lean on. These dogs make it their mission to cheer up anyone and everyone that needs to smile. In my opinion, that’s heroic.
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During stressful times, sometimes a canine companion can make a world of difference. That’s Zoey’s job. She is a golden retriever who is almost 3 years old, and she was hired as a full time staff member at Concordia University in January of 2014. Zoey has been helping students and faculty members ever since.
She helps students who have left home for the first time to attend school or faculty members who are going through personal issues at home and still need to be on campus every day to give lectures and help students. Zoey helps with everything that anyone needs her for, and she enjoys every minute of it.
Dave Enters, the university’s director of counseling services, describes Zoey’s presence as the “canine version of taking a deep breath.” Adam Natzke, a freshman at Concordia, says she puts a smile on everybody’s face as she walks down the hallway. Her presence brightens everyone’s day. There are students at Concordia that say that Zoey was the deciding factor in them choosing to attend the university. Zoey is even so popular that she has her own Facebook page.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has done multiple studies researching the effects of canines on the stress level of humans. These studies show that dogs decrease stress and promote relaxation in some people. A study published in the Complementary Health Practice Review in 2007 entitled “Health Benefits of Animal-Assisted Interventions” reviewed current research on the subject. Author Michele L. Morrison found that:
“Animal-assisted interventions (AAIs), which include both animal-assisted activities and therapies, have historically been beneficial to human health. AAIs are modalities that offer an integrative approach to enhance the treatment of various health concerns. Although many health care professionals and facilities use AAIs in the treatment of patients or clients, extensive opportunities are still available for further implementation into health care”
Zoey spends her days visiting classrooms, and she is used in some one on one counseling sessions too. She had to complete 54 weeks of training to become a certified comfort dog, and she is a full member of the staff at Concordia. She even has her own school ID.
This is such a simple idea that has had such a huge impact. It’s kind of hard to believe that school counselors hadn’t thought of this idea before. It’s no secret that college is an extremely stressful time for young adults, and for many of them it is their first time living on their own.
Depression, anxiety, and suicide all have high rates among young adults, and counseling is an excellent way to help anyone struggling with these issues. Pair that counseling with a therapy dog, and it’s no wonder Zoey is having such a great effect on the Concordia University campus.