Therapy dogs brighten students’ mid-semester moods


Photo courtesy of Charger Bulletin/Andrea Rojas.

Students take pictures with Jarvis the dog at the Rec Center, West Haven, Oct. 10, 2022.

Pet Partners’ dog handler Valerie DeMarco, recently met with students at the University of New Haven with one of her therapy dogs, Jarvis, in a session conducted at the Beckerman Recreation Center on Monday, Oct. 10.

During the hour-long session, students indulged in a fair chance to pet Jarvis and interact with the four-legged friend. The therapy dog session allowed students to actively mingle with Jarvis and help him showcase his playful nature. Throughout the hour, students were seen with smiling faces and headed back to their dorms with a positive head start to the week further.

The biweekly therapy dogs session takes place every other Monday at the Rec Center, and is run by the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) who has partnered with Pet Partners. During the last visit, Pet Partners brought Jarvis, a playful golden retriever on campus who was on his best behavior entirely. He showcased several activities and was an active listener to his handler, Valerie. Jarvis was also seen playing with students and sitting beside them, which were highlights of the evening. Students cheerfully captured these great moments with Jarvis by taking pictures and sharing them on social media.

Sharing thoughts on the Therapy Dogs Session, CAPS therapist Sam Kent said, “I believe that Valerie and her dogs are a great addition to the University of New Haven and the therapy dogs are supportive to everyone who misses their pets back home. We at the University would be glad to have Valerie and her dogs on campus so more students can get a chance to be part of this relaxing event.”

Kent spoke more about the benefits of therapy dogs, “Animals, in general, bring a sense of peace and calm around them, as long as they enjoy animals, and therapy dogs bring such peace to the students as well. They are very gentle and friendly, and we become calmer when we spend time in such therapy sessions,” he said. “This mechanism helps deliver a positive nature throughout the day and the week ahead and instills sheer positivity within ourselves and our surroundings.”

The presence of therapy dogs on campus is a great indulgence, even regarding mental health practices. Animal lovers share a unique, unfiltered bond with animals and tend to behold a coping mechanism solely by being around pets of all kinds. Therapy dogs strongly benefit in helping students who feel anxious or overwhelmed in their academic journey or for personal reasons. Being around such therapy dogs can help them in building a sense of comfort and peace with any traumatic or stressful experience or incident that may have happened in the past or is ongoing; for example, leaving their homes to pursue higher studies in a new location and settling in, in a new environment altogether. Such changes may temporarily bring discomfort, but with the presence of therapy dogs, students can seek help by securing themselves in a friendly, positive, and playful environment.

Students also shared their thoughts about this concept with some saying they have new energy for the week further. One of the students, Kate Jennings, a marketing major, said, “The session was extremely refreshing and made me so happy. Leaving my dog home was difficult, but interacting with Jarvis made me feel better. I anticipate more such activities in the future, and I wish more such sessions take place; they are very calming.”

Nishmitha Lelakrishnan, an engineering major, said she’d like the therapy dogs to come more frequently. She said, “Being an international student, I was homesick, but playing with Jarvis made me feel like he is someone I have known for a long time. He is extremely playful and reflects positive energy. I look forward to being part of such upcoming therapy dog sessions and meeting them weekly.”

DeMarco also opened up about her thoughts on such sessions and said, “We are glad to partner with CAPS and bring our dogs here; the students indeed are very playful with our dogs, reflecting a positive drive to keep bringing our dogs on campus. Coming to school is very helpful for the students as such sessions help students connect emotionally and take a break from the busy day,” she said. “With this notion, we are very excited to keep coming back here and introducing our dogs to the growing group of students in the future as well.”