North Texas Daily

UNT therapy dogs aim to help in ruff times

UNT therapy dogs aim to help in ruff times

Ana Cartez, RJ Pearson, Medical Assistant Heanne Hyde, and Sarah Rust (left-to-right) hang out with the dogs as they lie peacefully in Chestnut 311. Josh Jamison

UNT therapy dogs aim to help in ruff times
March 29
00:06 2018

A warm room full of friendly dogs and relaxing Latin music bring together the weekly atmosphere at the Counseling and Testing Services Department of Chestnut Hall.

This weekly outreach has been allowing dogs to act as a source of comfort to students on a walk-in, open-invite basis at the Health and Wellness Center since spring 2017, helping students find a safe place away from home.

“We have students come in daily just to see the dogs,” Steffanie Grossman said.

Grossman is a licensed psychologist, outreach and group coordinator at UNT’s Counseling and Testing Services located on the third floor of Chestnut Hall. Her dog, Rockstar, is one of the therapy dogs you can find during Dog Hour.

“When a student holds Rockstar, he opens a door for the student to be honest and trust they are in a safe place,” Grossman said.

The Counseling and Testing center hosts daily events throughout the week that involve dogs in one way or another, including Coffee with a Buddy, Pause for Paws and Netflix and Coloring with Rockstar the Therapy Dog.

These events take place Monday through Thursday during the afternoon, allowing room for any student to drop by and be engulfed in a peaceful environment.

Throughout this past year, the daily sessions have been growing in number. Anywhere from three to 12 people will attend each session.

“We’ve been attending the past two weeks,” UNT student RJ Pearson said.

The four certified therapy dogs featured at the sessions are Buddy, a 5-year-old standard poodle, Rockstar, a 4-year-old terrier mix, Willow, a 2-year-old chocolate labrador retriever and Dakota, a labrador retriever. Each of these dogs has gone through the Handlers Test, which trains the dog in basic obedience skills, so students can get close without any aggression in return.

“We have found that students feel more relaxed with dogs when they come in for workshops and it also helps challenge the stigma of mental health,” Grossman said.

The doors are open to all UNT students, from those dealing with life struggles to anyone who just wants to hang out with dogs in between classes to pass the time.

“We’re not stressed or anything— we just wanted to come hang out with dogs, [so] we didn’t know what to expect,” UNT student Ana Cortez said.

For some, attending these opportunities provided by the Wellness Center also allows for a larger sense of community among students and an atmosphere of vulnerability and relaxation.

And according to the Counseling and Testing Services website, surrounding yourself with animals has the potential to combat mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

“As a student opens up, it becomes more about them and no longer about the dog,” Grossman said.

Alongside these daily dog sessions, the Wellness Center offers many other opportunities for UNT students including couples or relationship counseling, individual therapy or group counseling and workshops.

As the semester draws near its end and the days get increasingly stressful, one thing students can find comfort in is the tail-wagging excitement that awaits them in Chestnut Hall.

Featured Image: Ana Cartez, RJ Pearson, Medical Assistant Heanne Hyde and Sarah Rust (from left to right) hang out with the dogs as they lie peacefully in Chestnut 311. Josh Jamison

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Jenelle Garcia

Jenelle Garcia

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