By Maryna Barysheva
Editor: Cierra Steinke

Dog therapy, a recent novelty on LCC campus introduced on February 6th as a part of the Student Life’s Relaxation Lab, received a wave of positive feedback from the university body.

 

Though not a therapy dog, Molly, a three-year-old golden retriever, quickly bonded with exhausted, yet excited LCC students. 

 

Hailey Altena, Student Success Center (SSC) coordinator, noted that animal therapy is scientifically beneficial, especially for people struggling with stress management.  

 

“Petting a dog is a good way to think, process, and unwind from everyday stresses,” said Altena. “It not only gives you positive emotions but also helps you to cope with stress in a healthier way.”

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Molly enjoying her walk on the beach. Photo taken from Hailey Altena’s personal archives.

For many on campus, dog therapy is one of the few ways to reconnect with pets left at home.

Valeriia Petrechkiv, a second-year International Relations and Development student, commented that petting Molly reminded her of home.

 

For Petrechkiv, dog therapy was also a warm gesture of kindness. 

“Molly gave love and joy to the community without waiting for anything in return,” said Petrechkiv. “It made me think of volunteering when people unconditionally care about each other.”

 

After training dogs for 10 years, Yuliia Diadiuk, a second-year International Relations and Development student, shared that building relationship with a pet is a unique process that requires trust and dedication. 

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Yuliia Diadiuk, Ukraine, posing after a proud win on a dog show. Photo taken from Yuliia Diadiuk’s personal archives.

Diadiuk supported Petrechkiv’s idea, saying that dogs are one of the most loving creatures in the world who neither judges nor rejects people regardless of their mood or behavior. 

 

A recent poll conducted among current LCC students showed that 88 out of 131 people would like to have dog therapy on campus once a month, while 24 individuals suggested bringing in cats.

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According to Altena, there could be a possibility to organize animal therapy on campus more frequently. 

It could be a good project for Student Life in cooperation with the SSC and LCC counselors. The only question that yet appears is where, when, and how to execute it.

Altena

When asked the same question, Petrechkiv suggested staff and faculty bringing their pets during lunchtime.

 

“I think it would be a good bonding opportunity for the LCC community, but the setting should involve a place to sit,” said Petrechkiv. “Imagine the coziness associated with petting a dog or a cat on a couch.”

Provided that animal therapy becomes a full-scale project at LCC, attention to the conditions of the activity help to make it comfortable both for pets and humans. 

 

Diadiuk emphasized that there is a certain culture when it comes to dealing with dogs. 

 

“Just like we do, animals have to have their personal space,” said Diadiuk. “That is why the number of visitors should be limited to approximately 15 people an hour.”

 

It is also essential to teach people how to communicate with the dog properly. 

 

“In particular, you shouldn’t touch the dog from behind,” commented Diadiuk.

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Hailey Altena hugging Molly after a tiring day at work. Photo taken from Hailey Altena’s personal archives.

As the midterms approach, Altena is thinking ahead about bringing Molly to the SSC for another therapy session.

“While petting a dog, students could also get more familiarity with SSC and services it provides,” said Altena. 

 

A common practice in western countries, dog therapy is especially effective for those suffering from anxiety. In fact, the impact of such a long-term interaction with dogs is powerful enough to help with severe stress, experienced in the military. 

According to Diadiuk, Ukrainian soldiers, diagnosed with PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder), are regularly treated with the help of dogs.  

Despite all the advantages discussed in the article, the current LCC policy prohibits having pets in the residence halls. Interestingly, after the recent appearance of a dog on campus, attitudes among the university body have shifted.

 

With experience mentoring a student with depression who owned an emotional support cat, in the past, Altena shared that having pets in the residence halls should be allowed in exceptional cases. 

“With potentially strict regulations and a signed doctor’s note, students with certain health conditions should have an opportunity to own a dog or a cat for emotional support,” explained Altena. “However, close attention should be given to ensure the quality of life of other people around.”

 

Petrechkiv holds a different view on the issue, questioning whether students could take full responsibility for their pets, especially when leaving the residence halls for summer work or traveling.

“Having a pet on campus comes with many potential threats: allergies or loud noise, just to name a few,” commented Petrechkiv. “Dog therapy once a month sounds like a perfect compromise for me.” 

 

Diadiuk acknowledges both sides of the argument, saying that on the one hand, taking care of the pet requires time and effort,  involving potential risks for other residents in case of negligence.

“On the other hand, I’d love to have my dogs here with me,” shared Diadiuk wholeheartedly. “It’s the best feeling when someone loyally waits for you at home.”

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Yuliia Diadiuk, Ukraine, sharing a moment of love with her dog. Photo taken from Yuliia Diadiuk’s personal archives.

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