Sitting in the library waiting for the bus is always uneventful and boring, right? Wrong! On March 15, I had only just sat down when in walked a lovely lady with a beautiful golden retriever. Then came two more sets, one after the other, each dog a shade lighter than the last.
All three women are veterans at this. As part of the St. John’s Ambulance Therapy Dogs program, they come to UFV with the express purpose of helping students, staff, and faculty alike in their most stressful times — like midterms and finals.
Sue Antonson, who is in charge of PAWS’ Mission school program, shared a few of her success stories. “I have seen a girl go from half-time attendance to full-time, students with reading difficulties getting help reading, kids with anxiety calm down. There was one boy who wouldn’t talk to anyone and after a while he would just bounce into the room saying ‘Sassy is here!’”
Sassy has been a St. John Ambulance dog for three years, and before that, she and Antonson used to make regular visits to care homes. Sassy was joined by Selyca, who is about four years old and has been a therapy dog since she was two — the youngest they can start. Selyca is well trained and didn’t hesitate to perform various tricks, such as “doing her prayers” and standing on her hind feet while her owner puts a biscuit on her nose. It was interesting to see how so many of the faculty and students responded with great joy at being around the dogs, and after spending an hour there myself, I was reluctant to leave too.
The therapy dogs have become a staple during exam periods and visited UFV seven times last semester, including visits at the Student Union Building, Baker House, and the campus library.
Barbara Renkers oversees the group and has been involved for years. “UFV has been good to us and we want to be good to them,” she said.