By: Mira Costello
Finals season might be ruff, but the Honors Program found the paw-fect way to help students destress and unwind. From 12 to 4 p.m. on Dec. 2, three certified therapy dogs visited and played with students and faculty in the Honors Lounge.
Ruthie and Goliath, from Therapy Dogs International and Alliance of Therapy Dogs, respectively, are regular volunteers at Memorial Hospital South Bend. Gus, also with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, is the official Chief Paw-sitivity Officer at Ronald McDonald House South Bend.
Dr. Neovi Karakatsanis, Honors Program director, was happy to see the event come to fruition after going through a long approval process through Bloomington and other red tape.
“As an honors program, we just decided to do this so that students would have a way to destress and relax. This is evidence-based, that dog therapy relieves anxiety and stress, so we decided to do it,” said Karakatsanis.
This wasn’t the first therapy dog event IU South Bend has seen. Kathi Piekarski, a staff person in the Sociology and Anthropology department, led two similar furry friend meet-and-greets each year for many years with similar student wellness and mental health awareness goals.
Having had therapy dogs herself, Piekarski said she knew the benefits they could have even for a few hours, and also remarked on how interacting with the animals brought people together.
“You could see the students interacting with the faculty on a whole new level,” said Piekarski.
At their largest, the events had over 300 attendees. Both Piekarski and Dr. Karakatsanis said they hope that this event will help bring therapy dogs to IU South Bend more regularly in the future.