• Madi Brillhart | Staff Writer

Service dogs visit GC for finals week

The Alliance of therapy Dogs will bring dogs to GC campus during finals week on May 7 and 8. Each is a certified therapy dog, whose purpose is to help relieve the stress that many students experience during finals.

Judith Keim, one of the tester/observers for therapy dogs at GC, said she tells students that the dogs are guaranteed to lower blood pressure and raise grades.

“Then I amend that and say, ‘I do know they lower your blood pressure; the grades are up to you all,’” Keim said.

Keim began bringing therapy dogs to GC campus over 10 years ago. Keim works with the Alliance of therapy Dogs, a national organization that brings therapy dogs to various establishments across the country.

“They’re a great group of folks who are dog owners who are interested in using their dogs to help ,” said Kell Carpenter, assistant director of access services at GC and acting liaison with therapy dogs.

Research has proven that short one-time visits with the trained puppies significantly lower blood pressure and increase energy levels, according to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs website.

Therapy dogs have also been proven to help with anxiety and depression disorders, which typically first onset between ages 18 and 24, according to the Jed Foundation, an organization devoted to mental health education and resources.

“We walk through and see someone really concentrating or maybe in a negative mood, they just need what I call a ‘reset,’” Keim said. “It just takes a minute and it changes enough of their focus to make a difference.”

The dogs have become somewhat of a staple for GC students during finals. Jake Lawson, a junior marketing major, said they changed his attitude after a test he didn’t do well on.

“I came out of the exam not very happy. I saw all the puppies running around and thought, ‘How can I not smile?’ and played with them a little and it totally changed my attitude,” Lawson said.

Carpenter said the dogs have been coming for the eight years he’s worked at GC.

“It’s really neat because the students kind of turn into little kids and they just love it. It’s a lot of fun seeing them get so much joy out of it,” Carpenter said.

In addition to leading the groups on campus, Keim is also involved in the testing and certification process each dog goes through before becoming a part of the team.

“[The testers] look at how the dog and owner interact, if the owner has full control, if the dog is polite and doesn’t do anything antagonistic... They have to be able to be around people and other animals and be friendly,” Keim said.

Keim said that the testing process is comprised of three 45-to-60-minute sessions, each in a different location to ensure the dogs are comfortable and stable in any environment.

“It’s not difficult,” Keim said. “There’s a time commitment, but once you’re certified, you’re good to go!”

Any breed of dog is welcome to begin the testing process and become certified.

“We often talk among ourselves, we question whether it’s a good use of our time,” Keim said. “And we’ve decided over the years that yes, it is. We come at a time where we don’t always know the stress factors students experience, so if we’re able to do it, we feel it’s important to keep it going-- rain or shine.”

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