Meet the New Campus Therapy Dog

Courtesy of Joan HoldenSantos is Loyola’s new therapy dog after the previous therapy dog, Tivo, retired over the summer. Santos will help students at the university cope with stress.

Students can look forward to seeing a new friendly face around campus when Loyola’s new therapy dog, Santos, arrives at the end of October.

Rescued from the animal shelter Orphans of the Storm, the mixed breed was taken to TOPS Kennel training clinic in the northern suburb Grayslake to complete therapy dog training. A therapy dog can be used on a college campus as an additional tool to counseling or for coping with stress, anxiety and traumatic events.

During his time on campus, Santos will be staying in Regis Hall with Spanish professor the Rev. Scott Hendrickson, S.J., who also named the dog. The name Santos referenced the Jesuits while incorporating Spanish.

The 1-year-old’s presence will be modeled after Loyola’s former therapy dog, Tivo, who was retired by the Wellness Center in the spring, The Phoenix previously reported.
While he may no longer do student outreach, the 10-year-old black lab still comes to work with Joan Holden, the Wellness Center director.

“Therapy dogs are very common across campuses; Loyola has been a leader in this across the country,” Holden said.

One of the therapy dog programs Tivo took part in was Talk with Tivo, which allowed students to interact with both the dog and a counselor in a non-traditional counseling setting.

Talk with Tivo helped destigmatize mental health and counseling, according to Holden.

“If a student is particularly a dog person and wants to incorporate Santos into their counseling here, that sometimes happens,” David deBoer, assistant director of the Wellness Center, said. “When, sadly, there’s occasional deaths on campus of faculty or staff, or occasionally of students, and something like that happens, Tivo would always go with us to help comfort the people at those events.”

Therapy dogs also help with the transition from high school to college and assist some students in coping with any residual homesickness.

“If you like dogs, students who are around them tend to be a little more relaxed and they tend to want to talk about what they left at home; their own dog at home,” Holden said.

Loyola sophomore Sara Posada said while she was sad to see Tivo retire, she is excited for the arrival of Santos, and thought the use of a therapy dog helped with the adjustment to college.

“It was nice to have a dog around while I was away from home,” the 19-year-old communications major said. “I think it’s a good thing to have around for when students are more stressed out, like [during] finals.”

First-year student Charlie Francis said he thinks a therapy dog around campus is a good idea, and the dog will provide support as students adapt to college, especially for those who have a dog at home.

“I think a therapy dog can be good to help students, especially freshmen, adjust and get over their homesickness,” the 18-year-old political science major said. “It’s hard to adjust when you leave, it’s like another member of the family that you’re leaving.”

According to deBoer, a therapy dog can mimic the positive effects of having a pet at home, such as helping lower blood pressure and creating a more relaxed demeanor in students.

Loyola first-year Amanda Gonzalez agrees that having a dog around helps a person relax, and can provide a sense of comfort in times of stress.

“When I’m stressed out or need some time off, I’ll play with my puppy,” Gonzalez said. “I think [Santos] will definitely help people.”

In addition to comforting students when they miss their own furry friends at home and in times of tragedy, Santos will appear at events such as Finals Breakfast and Study Day Stress Break, which are put on by the Wellness Center.

Santos will also be found around campus at his outreach program, Sit With Santos.

“We’re excited to have a new member of our community,” deBoer said.

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