Students help train therapy dogs, canines help students de-stress

BEREA, Ohio - Pulling all-nighters and chunking a semester's worth of information into one week can be all too consuming for most students.

"Everyone’s a little on edge, we’re all pretty stressed out. I get a little cranky sometimes too,” said Meghan Plahuta, a third year student at Baldwin Wallace University.

But then, in walks Luca, and the game changes.

“He’s a big gentle giant, he’s so lovable,” said Plahuta.

The giant 5-year-old Great Dane was just one of the four-legged friends in the K9 partners program through Ohio Guidestone at Baldwin Wallace University.

“The prime time when students need de-stressing was final exam week,” Chuck Levin, co-Founder of K9 Partners and Chair of the Psychology Department at Baldwin Wallace University. He continued, “They spend final exam week and the last week of classes hanging out in the library meeting with students and chatting with students.”

“They’re visiting people and the atmosphere just changes when the dogs are in the library,” said Plahuta.

But the students aren't the only ones benefiting, these canines are getting prepped and socialized for their road ahead. Students volunteer to help train the pups who will eventually become certified therapy dogs.

“They help with socialization and public access…just to be comfortable in different types of settings,” said Rivienne Levin, co-founder of K9 Partners and one of the Supervisors at Ohio Guidestone.

“And we even have the dogs come into class…this is definitely a unique opportunity for BW,” Plahuta said.

The Neuroscience/Psychology major has been a trainer for two years now and said the most rewarding part is helping people cope with life both short and long term.

“I’ve had people tell me like ‘This makes my day’, like this is amazing, and so that interactions always really fun, and then it’s also really great to know that these dogs are going to go on and help children in therapy sessions.”

The K9 Partners program has going on at the university since 2013 and has grown over the years. Last year, there were 17 students, and this year they were 35 who participated along with 7 dogs in training, the largest group yet.

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