As Loyola students start the fall semester, one familiar face will be missing: Santos, Loyola’s therapy dog. The lovable canine will transition out of his role while maintaining a limited presence on campus, according to Wellness Center director Joan Holden.
Santos was Loyola’s second therapy dog following Tivo, a labrador retriever who retired at 10 years old last year. Santos, a two-year-old mutt, was introduced to the Loyola community last fall, The Phoenix previously reported.
The Wellness Center announced the change on Twitter. Santos was having trouble adjusting to his new job, according to the tweets.
Holden said Wellness Center employees noticed Santos struggling toward the end of the spring semester; he occasionally acted hesitant toward students and showed some signs of territorial behavior in the Wellness Center.
Santos is a mixed breed, and a DNA test conducted earlier this year revealed part of his heritage includes the border collie and Australian cattle dog. These are herding breeds best suited for an active lifestyle, according to Holden.
Therapy dogs help reduce stress, especially for college students facing exams or transitioning to university life, according to a recent study from the University of British Columbia. They’re trained to be social and calm around strangers and in different environments, according to the American Kennel Club.
Multiple universities, including Creighton University, Saint Xavier University and University of Michigan, either have a resident therapy dog or a program which regularly brings therapy dogs to campus.
Like Tivo, Santos spent his workdays in the Wellness Center, but also spent time each week day at different spots on campus so students could visit him.
Many students passing by during his Sit With Santos sessions would pause to scratch his ear or show him love; he often garnered small crowds of adoring fans. His handlers would sometimes bring his toys so students who missed their own dogs could play with him.
Santos was also seen walking around campus and cheered up many students who crossed his path.
Tori Perez, 20, said she enjoyed seeing Santos around campus and during his Sit With Santos sessions throughout the year, but said she also understood the Wellness Center’s decision.
“It makes sense,” the junior biology major said. “It just seemed like he was a little tense all the time so I’m not surprised. But it is super sad because he is super cute.”
The Wellness Center said it’s committed to the therapy dog program and expects to bring a new dog to campus this fall, according to a tweet. Holden didn’t give any specifics about the new dog, but the Wellness Center is considering a dog that is currently in training for the role.
Holden, who adopted Tivo, took Santos in to live with her. Although Santos’ on-campus outreach will be reduced, he’ll be available for students to visit on Mondays in the Wellness Center, according to Holden.
“I’m glad that Santos will still be part of our university community albeit on a more limited basis,” Holden said.