Therapy dogs make appearance at EMU wellness fair

Therapy dogs from Eastern Michigan University’s monthly Wellness Woof program made an appearance at the wellness fair, promoting healthy living and mental health awareness amongst several other organizations. 

Several dogs as well as their owners, associated with Therapaws of Michigan, attended the event on the fourth floor of EMU's REC/IM from 4p.m. to 6p.m. Anyone was welcome to attend to pet, sit with, and play with the dogs, all of which were certified therapy animals. 

One such dog, Lavender, was 11 years old and owned by Jeff Findley. The duo has been working as a therapy partnership for near five years, hopping to different organizations depending on the area. 

“We try to hit some of the late night ones [visits] in the winter,” said Findley. “Lavender and I usually do what’s called ‘special events’ – things like this that are one time or two times.” 

“We’re geared more towards college aged kids and kids in general,” he continued. “Lavender responds better to them.” 

Not every dog is cut out to be a therapy dog. In order to provide such services, the dog must pass a Canine Good Citizen test to ensure its behavior is appropriate for visits. Therapaws uses a unique test associated with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD), whose members can relocate to any Therapaws location should they need to move if they’ve passed the test. 

“[My favorite thing] is just making people happy,” he said. “You didn’t see it too much today, but is we were at a place where people walk up and just gasp and just look so happy just to see a dog – its amazing what having a dog can do for someone.” 

Couple Pam and Richard Hoose brought their two dogs to the event: Josephine and Ruby respectively. 

“I used to bring her [Josephine] to my 2nd grade class when I was still teaching,” said Mrs. Hoose. “After I retired, I decided to keep bringing her on visits by making her a therapy dog.” 

Other dogs included Shelley, Kipper and Fennigan, all of which were available for students to pet and play with. One student, sophomore Hannah Stefenek, has been to nearly every Wellness Woof event on campus simply for her love of dogs. 

“It’s a good stress reliever from school.” She said, “it’s a nice, fun thing to do, and I’ve gone to the other Wellness Woofs last year too.” 

On the other hand, freshman Alyssa Misiak came in part because she misses her own dogs she has at home.

“I live two and a half hours away,” she said. “I don’t go home frequently, so Wellness Woof is important to me because I can get my dog fix.” 

Misiak also attended for the various other organizations whom made an appearance at the event. 

Along with the dogs were several student and community organizations supporting wellness in several different forms Such organizations spanned between student run groups for health and fitness (Pre-Dental Student Association, REC/IM, Eagle Nutrition Services) to mental illness and sexual assault awareness (EMU Students for Recovery, Safe House Center, Active Minds.) The Office of the Ombuds, the Persian Student Association, Heartfulness Institute, Young Americans for Liberty and EMU’s Diversity and Community Involvement group also made appearances. 

Breeanna Cannon, a graduate assistant for the Office of Wellness and Community Responsibility, noted the multiple different facets of wellness other then just fitness. 

“At Eastern we focus on environmental, financial, emotional, occupational, social, physical, intellectual and spiritual wellness,” she said. “There’s more to each of them then just the surface level thoughts; if we were just to focus on nutrition, there’s just so much more to your well-being then just that one aspect.” 

Future Wellness Woof activities will be held on the fifth floor of the REC/IM. The next day they’ll be on campus is February 13, 4p.m. to 6p.m. 

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