Grossmont College students get by with a little help of their furry friends

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Study groups, writing papers, taking finals—these things can be stressful for college students. When trying to make the grade and get through the end of the semester, support is necessary and it comes in all forms, even the four-legged kind. Grossmont College students found an extraordinary remedy to their academic pressures on Dec. 4 when therapy dogs visited the campus. Students who needed to decompress, re-focus, or just smile found relief with a new pack, provided by Independent Therapy Dogs, Inc. (ITD). 

Study groups, writing papers, taking finals—these things can be stressful for college students. When trying to make the grade and get through the end of the semester, support is necessary and it comes in all forms, even the four-legged kind. Grossmont College students found an extraordinary remedy to their academic pressures on Dec. 4 when therapy dogs visited the campus. Students who needed to decompress, re-focus, or just smile found relief with a new pack, provided by Independent Therapy Dogs, Inc. (ITD). 

Following the lead of Canadian colleges and Yale Law School that lets students “book time with a therapy dog, like checking out a book” according to Grossmont College Cataloging Librarian Nadra Farina-Hess, therapy dogs visiting local schools is nothing new for ITD, and is growing in popularity with local colleges. It was a serendipitous event for Grossmont students, most of whom could not walk by without grinning, watching, petting, and even talking to the therapy dogs. 

“I already feel happier,” said Shara, a student who was hanging out with a 5-month old Golden Retriever named Kimo. Sandy, Kimo’s handler, has had him doing service work since he was eight weeks old. Whereas many puppies are high energy and impulsive, Kimo sat for long periods of time, approached by countless strangers, letting people take in his mellow and happy demeanor. 

If a puppy with a plush coat and wagging tail were not enough to lure distracted students, other therapy dogs lying in the grass at the event outside the library had something to which young and older students could connect.

ITD’s President/Director Shirley Colman, who handles a 10-year old cocker spaniel named Davy, spoke at length with student and dog owner Howard, who unwound around the animals and discussed his cocker spaniels waiting for him at home. 

Davy has many other canine colleagues that Colman considers part of her “packs” for visits at venues such as hospitals, USOs, in-home hospices, nursing homes, libraries and elementary schools, where therapy dogs participate in ITD’s Ruff Reader program for children.

“Because having a dog there makes the child relax, they learn more, they learn it faster, and they retain it longer,” Colman said. 

Watching the college students interact with Knox, the 2-year-old Shiba Inu or Muddy, the amber-colored Golden, Kimo or Davy, benefits similar to having therapy dogs in elementary schools could apply in college as well.

Colman had calendars of her many therapy dogs on hand, with pictures of therapy dogs in action. One such dog is Tassi Roo, a four-year-old Labradoodle who stays with patients as they are administered chemotherapy. ITD, has all different types of breeds in their packs, including a previously abused, rehabilitated and gentle (110 lb.) German Shepherd named Samson and a Pomeranian named Squirt who did the Navy Woof Walk and Ruff Reader events at MCRD.

ITD is going on its fourth year. They do not charge any fee for therapy dog services.

“That’s why we’re here, to give you guys a chance to refresh your brain,” said Sandy, handler of Goldens, Muddy and Kimo who watched over her therapy dogs doing their work with the students. “Why didn’t we have this when I was in school?”

To learn more about ITD, or book them for an event, they’re on Facebook (Independent Therapy Dogs, Inc.) or visit https://sites.google.com/site/idtdinc/.

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