Dogs and College
Dogs and College
When I think of college, the presence of dogs is not one that comes to mind from my college career several decades ago. These days, if you visit a college campus, you might well run into a number of dogs who are critical members of the college community.
Dogs for Freshmen
If you are the parent of a college freshman, you might be hearing some homesickness creep into your weekly family calls. Sending care packages and planning for fall break may help ease homesickness, but dogs may be a solution for homesickness. A recent publication reports on an 8 week study of animal assisted therapy in college freshmen. Freshmen randomized to spend time in small group sessions with a therapy dog experienced greater reductions in homesickness and greater increases in satisfaction with life than did those not assigned to a small group session with therapy dogs. If you have a homesick college student, check the college’s calendar or contact the office of student affairs to see if there are animal assisted therapy programs available for your homesick student.
Dogs in Training on Campus
I recently attended Alfred University’s commencement exercises. Several students processed with their dogs. At first I was surprised that university officials would allow dogs at graduation, but then found out these dogs were Guiding Eyes for the Blind trainees. The Alfred University students serve as puppy raisers, attend training classes with other Guiding Eyes trainees and teach basic manners and obedience in preparation for guide dog training and placement with a visually impaired partner. Attending commencement was simply part of learning to be a guide dog; although I am sure the dogs were proud of their raisers!
Dogs in Class
After reading the story about guide dogs in training, I hunted for news stories on visually impaired students with a guide dog. Sure enough, I found the uplifting story of Hayden, Fathom and Swarthmore College.
Hayden, a sophomore engineering student at Swarthmore College, was paired with Fathom, a Seeing Eye trained guide dog. Working with Fathom allowed Hayden more confidence navigating the campus and opened up a whole new world of friends and social activity because Fathom made it possible to easily move about campus. Having Fathom allowed Hayden to accept a summer research position at Purdue University. This story has an even more wonderful end: Hayden graduated with honors and a degree in engineering. Fathom was by his side at commencement and now they attend graduate school in London.
Even if you are not a college student, there are many opportunities for you to work with guide dogs. Like the students at Alfred University, you could become a puppy raiser. If you have a certified therapy dog, you could volunteer at your local college’s student center to help alleviate college associated stress. AMC does its part to help guide dogs by providing free medical care to over 200 guide dogs annually through our Frank V.D. Lloyd Fund for Guide Dogs.