‘It’s raining dogs’: students discover health resources through therapy dog sessions

Tehya Rassman

Friday may have been wet and gloomy outside, but inside the Student Services Building, the atmosphere was fluffy and lively. 

Two dogs from service dog organization Divine Canines came for the Pause for Paws event. University Health Services and the Interpersonal Violence Peer Support program hosted the event to spread awareness of campus resources for physical and mental health and to lift the spirits of students through interacting with therapy dogs.

“The goal of our event is to have a place for students to come and engage in a self-care activity during the Longhorn Welcome week,” said Mandy Colbert, UHS health promotion coordinator. “These dogs are specially trained to be support animals and to be empathetic. Research shows that animals boost mental health, physical health and just overall well-being.”

IVPS, currently in its second year, is made up of students trained to help those affected by interpersonal violence. Unlike University faculty and staff, who are required to report issues of interpersonal violence under Title IX, the members of IVPS are able to give support and listen without requiring an official report.

Kelsey Lammy, the mental health promotion coordinator at the Counseling and Mental Health Center, has helped facilitate similar events, including Suicide Prevention Week and Mental Health Promotion Week. 

“The events are all about well-being, so encouraging students to really look at how they take care of themselves and how they can improve their well-being,” Lammy said.

With dozens of students attending the event, organizers had groups of 10 to 15 students enter at a time to meet the two therapy dogs, Bruce Wayne and Ranger. Chemistry sophomore Emma Hobson said her experience was informative and exciting. 

“The dogs themselves were super cute and friendly,” Hobson said. “I spent most of the time there with Bruce Wayne, the little Chihuahua. Overall, I had a wonderful time and I will definitely go to another
therapy dog event in the future.”

The other therapy dog, Ranger, spent his time at the event laying down, and allowing people to pet him and feed him treats. Ranger is sometimes taken to hospitals, where he lays in bed with sick children, said Divine Canines volunteer Karen Laurenzi.

Although these dogs may look like any other Chihuahua or Labrador retriever, they were specially trained and are able to give service to promote mental health.

“Our thing is, ‘ordinary dogs, extraordinary service,’” Laurenzi said.