This summer, Carleton University welcomed six new furry friends to the Carleton Therapy Dog program. Blue, Carleton’s first therapy dog, is now joined by Cooper, Murphy, Roxy, Penny, Zak, and Dozer.
Carleton’s Therapy Dogs can be visited during their office hours in locations across campus, as well as partnering with key Student Service centres to offer visits called “Pawsitive Support”. Together with their handlers, the therapy dogs offer a welcoming, supportive environment that can provide a low intensity, yet effective strategy to cope with mental health problems or other stresses.
Many people say that visiting with the dogs simply brightens their day, while others may be struggling and looking for someone who will listen without judgment and gain more meaning from the experience. Tangible results are also seen in levels of confidence, social interactions, connectedness, and general satisfaction at Carleton University. More often than not, a student that opens up about an ongoing issue will be effectively referred to another appropriate resource, due to the trust and bond that is formed over the connection with the animal. All of the handlers are Carleton Staff and Faculty members, who have received a base level of mental health training.
We all have mental health, and it is on a fluid spectrum. We all have good days and bad days, and sometimes the stresses of life require a little more support – and not every situation requires the help of a counsellor. Therapy dogs offer a way to connect with peers, share knowledge and stories, and presents a unique opportunity for students to take seek support in a different way.
Funds raised will be used to support another year that the therapy dog project can continue to grow and thrive, and maintain its reputation as a viable strategy for mental health and well-being on campus.
Carleton Therapy Dogs provides:
- Low-level support which is filling a gap on campus
- Accessible service (drop-in hours, space for students who may not reach out elsewhere)
- Contribution to a student’s sense of belonging/connectedness to the University
- Reduction of stigma, promoting conversation about mental health on campus
- Mental Health Literacy, by talking with students about the existence of mental health as a spectrum, and referrals to appropriate resources
- Breaking down of structural barriers that can contribute to a lack of help-seeking in students