It’s fairly common knowledge that petting a dog can help lower people’s blood pressure, heart rate and help them relax, especially if the dog is calm.
With that in mind, St. John Ambulance began a therapy dog program more than 20 years ago and recently expanded it beyond visiting patients in seniors facilities and improving a child’s reading skills, to having dogs in schools.
Northwest Community College offered therapy dogs to visit with students for the second time during Final Exam Week Dec. 14 to 17.
Dogs came by campus to hang out three times a day for an hour each time in the bookstore cafe.
Hannah Niemi helped organize the event, which began in April 2015 and will be back next April.
Eight therapy dogs are here in the community, including three golden retrievers, a pug, and a corgi.
Often times, small dogs aren’t thought of as being calm and easy going but Niemi says the therapy dogs are all pretty mellow.
Niemi took some training in 2014 and said dogs go through an evaluation to see how they react to wheelchairs, loud noises etc.
If the dog is scared, then the owner could be asked to work with it to get it over any fear of noises or items and see how that goes.
A dog who has an “accident” is automatically out of the program.
A therapy dog has to be two-years-old and the owner who goes with the dog has to be at least 18.
When the dogs return next spring, Niemi is thinking of having them on campus for two weeks, the week before exams and exam week.