Recently students at Manhattanville College were treated to lots of love from Abby, a five-year-old Chocolate Labrador. While this is not the first-time therapy dogs have visited campus, her visit was the first of many as the start of a new program at the Counseling and Wellness Center, which will bring a therapy dog on campus every other Wednesday for the foreseeable future.
Licensed through Therapy Dog International Inc., Abby the therapy dog, alongside owner Cami Netri, were very popular among the dozens of students and faculty that came to visit. The energy in the room was as mellow and relaxed as Abby was; laying on the floor as three or four students at a time would have a turn at petting her. Visitors found Abby’s arrival a welcome change from the two times a semester that dogs come to visit the campus during Stress Relief Week, the week before both midterms and finals.
“I wish that they did it more,” said Rebecca, a freshman on campus.
The therapy dogs are per- haps the most popular activity attended during Stress Relief Week, with dozens of students coming to the library to get a chance to be friendly with the handful of dogs that participate.
“It’s the only thing [The Counseling Center] doesn’t have to beg people to attend,” said Netri, referring to the event.
In fact, the therapy dogs that come during Stress Relief Week was the inspiration for this new initiative, which was first introduced by Dr. Melissa Boston, Director of the Counseling and Wellness Center.
“[The therapy dogs] are here for Stress Relief Week, and we received a lot of feed- back from students, and that feedback was that they love the dogs,” said Elana Light, Assistant Director of the Counseling and Wellness Center, “The students found them relaxing. Dr. Boston believed it could be a program we could pick up.”
Light, who is also the advisor of the Active Minds Club, a group whose goal is to reduce stigma around asking for mental help on campus, also helped bring the initiative to fruition. Something as friendly and nonjudgmental as therapy dogs will be a great first step to bringing in some new faces according to Light.
“A lot of students will be likely to come down to the Counseling and Wellness Center for the therapy dog,” Light said.
What does Abby think of all the new attention? She doesn’t seem to mind but can get a little overwhelmed if there are too many people. That’s why in order to visit, people need to make an appointment first.
“A very difficult job,” Netri playfully said of Abby’s work, the dog trailing be- hind her loyally.