SAULT STE. MARIE MICH. - With exams around the corner, Lake Superior State University (LSSU) invited several trained and certified therapy dogs from HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response (AACR), Alliance of Therapy Dogs, and Pet Partners into its library to help alleviate any test-taking jitters on Friday, Dec.2.
“Around exam time, we have found students really enjoy being around the dogs,” said Michael Beasley, Dean of Student Affairs. “It takes a little edge off of what students experience as they prepare for exams and papers.”
In fact, having dogs on campus prior to exams is a decade old LSSU tradition.
Meet four-year-old labrador volunteer Parker of HOPE AACR. She is a MyMichigan Behavioral Health therapy dog.
“It’s all for the love of people and the love of dogs,” said owner and handler Cathy Queen.
LSSU nursing student Matthew Zabik ejoyed petting Parker yesterday afternoon.
“Our exams are next week, and the dogs calm me down” said Zabik, who has spent the last three nights studying in the campus library. “I always appreciate it when we have these dogs in here. The last time they had to cancel, so I was even more stressed out. I love having dogs around. I've been around dogs all my life. This helps me breathe and focus.”
The HOPE team has also visited the campus to comfort students through grief. An example could be the death of a fellow student or professor.
HOPE Regional Manager Nicholas Meier and his wife, Julia, have visited every EUP school, including Sault Area Public Schools a total of three times.
“When we joined HOPE in 2013, our very first visit was to Washington DC after a navy base shooting,” said Meier, gently patting 14-month-old golden retriever Cricket's soft coat.
But Cricket was not on campus as a HOPE dog, she was there with Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
Although trained at the Sault Ste. Marie Kennel Club in Ont., Cricket must complete one full year working as a therapy dog with Alliance. Then, only upon successfully completing a three day workshop, series of tests, and three-hour screening will she be considered for HOPE certification.
According to its website, HOPE has been sending Certified Animal-Assisted Crisis Response teams to disasters and traumatic events since 2001, free of charge.
“We have sent teams from the midest to Hurricane Ian,” said Meier.
“We had teams go to Gaylord after the tornado,” Queen added.
Unfortunatley, there are not too many canine crisis response teams left in the UP.
“We have lost most of our dogs over the last two or three years,” said Meier, looking for anyone interested in training their dog to visit schools, nursing homes, hospice centers, disaster areas, and more.
If you or someone you know would like to get involved and learn more about HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response, Alliance of Therapy Dogs, and Pet Partners contact HOPE Regional Manager Nicholas Meier at firstname.lastname@example.org
You may also visit the HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response website, here; Alliance of Therapy Dogs, here; and Pet Partners, here.