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Just how important are service and therapy dogs?

Therapy dog, Snickerdoodle, comforts an elderly woman in a local nursing home. (photo/ Susan Putt)

It’s hard to find a person that doesn’t smile at the sight of a dog walking by them on the sidewalk. Everyone has a soft spot for their innocent smiles, soft fur coat and genuine playful nature. According to the United States Humane Society, as of 2012, 62 percent of America owned at least one household pet. We may all enjoy playing fetch in the front yard and cuddling on the sofa, but many people are unaware of the therapeutic benefits that dogs can provide. On the campus of Ohio Northern, there are currently service dogs and therapy dogs in training.

Matt Stroh, a junior Civil Engineering major at Ohio Northern University who currently is a part trainer of a service dog, talked about the different types of service dogs and their importance.

“Service dogs have a lot of different possibilities. There are therapy dogs that go into counseling centers and other locations, there are seeing-eye dogs, and many other types of service dogs in between there. The most common is a seizure-therapy dog, which help to prevent a person from having a seizure,” explained Stroh.

Personally, I have never had a soft spot for dogs. All through my life, I have had negative experiences around dogs no matter how big or small, or what certification they may acquire. I think this started because I was diagnosed with a dog allergy when I was 9. However, my parents told me it started long before that when I was one year old and my father’s long time dog, Rowdy, attempted to kill me by jumping over my play pen. He really lived up to his name.

The first time I saw a therapy dog on campus, I was alarmed. I’m not a fan of dogs, in case I left that out. After spending time around a therapy dog named Snickerdoodle, I began to develop a different perspective. After speaking with Mrs. Susan Putt, an instructor in English and owner of Snickerdoodle, I learned more about therapy dogs and their importance.

Putt talked about why her therapy dog, Snickerdoodle, has impacted her life.

I met Snickerdoodle during a Kappa Phi meeting, which is a Christian Women’s organization. The president had agreed to allow Snickerdoodle to train by socializing with other people and becoming comfortable. I don’t think anyone understood that I am actually allergic to dogs—very allergic. It didn’t take too long for the dog to latch on to me. It took me a minute to realize that maybe Snickerdoodle could sense that I needed to relax more than I knew myself at the time.

When asked what he likes most about service dogs, Stroh talked about what makes a service dog so important to him.

My journey with not appreciating dogs has not been the easiest. I am still trying to overcome the urge to run every time I see a dog run my way, but that doesn’t mean that I have not grown fond of the dogs that have been placed on my path. After meeting Snickerdoodle, my perspective changed and I have felt that dogs can sense and understand humans on a different level that we don’t understand. It’s simply fascinating.

Service dogs and therapy dogs and are available in many locations if students feel the need to unwind and spend time with friendly face. Not only are they present during the Chapel DE-Stress and Refresh event every semester, but also in the library during finals week.

“To me, dogs are a reflection of God’s unconditional love. They’re always there for you. They’re loyal, even when you leave them behind. When you go back to them, they’re welcoming. It’s a perfect reflection of God’s unconditional love,” expressed Putt.    

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