A new therapy dog is joining students on campus to help cope with stress and any other problems students may face. Gretta, a golden retriever, will be beside her handler Kathleen O’Shea, a professor in the English and Philosophy department at MCC as she goes to and from classes.
“There’s so much evidence, and research now around having that inclusive practice of having therapy animals in hospital settings, and how that really assists people,” said O’Shea.
This goes for students, as well. Last May, several therapy dogs came to campus during finals week to help students relieve some of the stress they felt. Since then, MCC President Anne Kress and Professor O’Shea have come up with a plan to help students reduce stress levels with a therapy dog.
Kress and O’Shea met over the summer, and agreed to try bringing Gretta, a registered therapy dog, onto the Brighton campus for the semester.
“I think that’s what you want; that you want some aspect of a college environment where it can really help lower the temperature for people. And college is a really stressful environment, it’s stressful for faculty, it’s stressful for students, for administrators, for staff. I think one of the benefits of having the therapy dogs is that it gives you a place of calm, of peace,” said MCC President, Anne Kress.
Gretta will go to class with O’Shea every day, where students in the halls can say hi and pet her, and then if someone wanted to set up a specific meeting for an individual, club or organization on campus can email O’Shea to set up a time for a visit.
At the beginning of the semester, O’Shea asked her students in class if there were any allergies or other concerns about having Gretta in the classroom. If anyone had a problem with Gretta being in class, another place would be found for Gretta to stay for that block.
“[Student] interests and concerns come first, so she just won’t be in that class if someone isn’t comfortable [having her there],” said O’Shea.
The hope is that the year-long pilot goes well. After one semester, President Kress and Professor O’Shea will meet again to talk about how successful the program was, to see about potentially expanding the program. “I’m hoping once we see the level of success we’ve had, we can develop the program further,” said O’Shea.
“I think it’s something that everyone responds to immediately, positively. And I do think that really beneficial aspect of having a trained therapy dog is we do know that there’s proliferation of service animals on campus … but these are dogs that are completely trained for therapy,” said Kress.
“The number of times I’ve heard ‘You made my day,’ from people, it’s been just great,” said O’Shea.
“It’ll be interesting to see how this develops, we’ve been getting such positive feedback already… I really like it; it’s a great addition,” said Kress.
For more information on Gretta, contact Kathleen O’Shea at email@example.com.