Counseling Center provides pet therapy for students

As the semester draws to a close at Shippensburg University, projects are due, finals are coming up and suddenly it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day. Students at Shippensburg University can take heart because Puppy Power is on its way.  

 dog1The university’s Counseling Center is hosting pet therapy with dogs and handlers from Kindly Canines of Chambersburg Dec. 8 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Tuscarora Room in Reisner Dining Hall.  

Kindly Canines is a volunteer group of handlers and their dogs that have been tested and registered as Therapy Dog Teams. Animals from the Cumberland County Red Cross Animal Assisted Therapy Program have participated in previous years.  

According to Dr. Michelle Olexa, psychologist and assistant professor, the center has arranged for therapy dogs to visit campus for several years and it is a very popular program. Olexa said that therapy dogs have been on campus for every wellness fair and as part of the center’s Simply Well Being series, such as the event Dec. 8.      

Olexa said previous programs involved taking animals, including a guinea pig and cat, into the residence halls. 

 Olexa said there is a very positive impact therapy animals can have on students, particularly in high- tension situations.  “I’ve had a long time interest in animal therapy and the general psychological power of being around animals, especially for college-aged adults. ”  

Adog2nimal therapy is proven to be effective with severely ill people and those in hospital settings, but Olexa believes that therapy dogs can have an equally positive effect on college students at high stress times.  

“They may be missing their pets at home. The therapy dogs put things into perspective for the students as well as lowering their blood pressure and lowering anxiety,” she said.  “I also believe that it can help college students deal with social anxiety.”     

Olexa hopes to bring therapy dogs to campus at other times as well.  “I’d like to see the dogs come in for orientation activities. People are more interested in talking with each other when there are animals around.”  

The Kindly Canines will also have information available during the event.