Campus therapy dog helps students relieve stress

Dex, the campus therapy dog, is ready to help students cope with the stress of college. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

Kirkwood Community College has many resources to offer students but one that students may not know about is the opportunity to interact with a therapy dog, named Dex.

Dr. Alissa R. King, associate professor of sociology at Kirkwood, is the owner, trainer and handler of two great Dane therapy dogs. Shade is three years old and retired and Dex, who is two years old, comes to campus. According to King, both of the dogs are certified therapy dogs that have been doing work at Kirkwood since they were puppies.

King said,“I think something important is to differentiate between a therapy dog, an emotional support dog and a service dog. Emotional support dogs are for a handler, service dogs are for a handler and provide a service and a therapy dog is for everyone.”

It takes a lot of training and obedience to become a therapy animal. King said they did all the training and utilized Kirkwood’s Continuing Education for puppy socialization and basic obedience classes.

Not just any dog is fit to be a therapy animal though, King said, these animals have to be able to ignore distractions and be comfortable and calm in many different settings.

There are many benefits to interacting with a therapy dog, especially for college students. According to King, stress reduction is one of the biggest positive effects. The dogs are calming for people who enjoy interacting with animals, and they are simply fun to be around.

Students who have pets at home that they cannot see all the time may especially enjoy being around Dex. “They get a lot of smiles in the hallway. I have people I’m used to seeing who run up and give them a hug,” King said.

The positive impact Dex has on the Kirkwood campus is obvious. King and Dex are most often found walking down the hallways of campus making friends. Or, Dex can be found in King’s classes or in Cedar Hall 1032 during their office hours. To talk to them about meeting Dex you can email alissa.king@kirkwood.edu.

King said therapy dogs like Dex are meant to help. Many college students struggle with stress or feeling overwhelmed and that’s okay. Meeting Dex just may be the perfect way to spend a little bit of time to improve one’s mood.

Image courtesy of Contributed

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