Finding peace with Ryerson’s Therapy Dogs

Being a student can be stressful. From long commutes, exhausting classes, and never ending assignments, at some points of the semester, it can seem like all the good in the world is gone.

Here at Ryerson, some canine critters have stepped up to guide students through that academia daze. Once again, therapy dogs save the day.

People often look to dogs and other fluffy animals as a source for companionship and affection. The medical community caught onto this and has started using dogs, cats, and even horses to support in a more intensive way.

Sue Jameson handles and owns Trinket, one of the therapy pups at work at Ryerson, who is always eager to perform tricks for an audience.

The dogs are always happy to have new fans, usually pleasing a crowd of fifty in a day. Yet, even in their celebrity status, these pups know how to remain composed, thanks to their training from the St. John’s Ambulance services.

“They have to pass in order to become a registered therapy dog. It’s usually like they don’t react negatively when people touch their paws or when they have a lot of people touching them,” said Jameson. “She just has the right temperament, it’s not obedience related. It’s just they have to like people, they have to be comfortable.”

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Animal-assisted therapy is becoming an increasingly popular method to help people cope with disorders, such as PTSD and depression. Also known as AAT, pet therapy was reserved for special cases, such as those with mobility issues. Now, more services are recognizing the benefits of using animals to increase self-esteem or manage anxiety.

Alana Mitchell, a student and mediator at Ryerson’s pet therapy program, said that a dog can do anything from bringing a person a little smile, to actually helping them with a serious mental illness. For students missing their pets, it helps them feel a little more at home.

Although research is still sparse on animal therapy, it’s clear that the response has been positive. So far, studies have shown that people with pets show a reduction in the stress hormones produced in the brain, such as cortisol, adrenaline, and aldosterone.

Many shortfalls of regular therapy aren’t found when it comes to pet therapy. “Some people feel less comfortable sharing their issues with people or doctors, for fear of judgement, but they [dogs] don’t ask, they just listen,” said Jameson. “It’s an escape for the students, it’s a really nice environment to escape the stressful work area. “

Are you a fan of adorable dogs? Ryerson’s last therapy dog session is Dec. 7 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the lower gym of Kerr Hall West.

Photos by Leyla Godfrey