Pooches provide comfort

Carrie Circosta

Program supports students making transition from home life to dorm life

It’s obvious that some students have a difficult transition moving into a residence hall, and only being allowed to have fish as a pet doesn’t make things easier.

Kathy Adamle, assistant professor in the College of Nursing, realized a need for college students to feel connected to Kent State University – and she thinks that connection is made with dogs.

“D.O.C., Dogs On Campus Pet Therapy Program, is designed for students, faculty and staff at Kent State University,” Adamle said. “People miss their dogs, and dogs are a part of their family and family is their support system. If we can provide them with something that will help them feel that Kent State is acknowledging the separation anxiety and that they miss home and they miss their pets, maybe we can make a bridge and make them see that we are very concerned about that.”

Adamle said pet therapy is a well-known program that’s held in hospitals, grade schools and nursing homes, sanctioned by the National Delta Association.

“My thought was to bring pet therapy to a different population, and what better place to bring pet therapy than to a college campus?” she said. “Especially to incoming freshmen when they’re adjusting to college life and their support system is at home.”

Dogs must be Delta certified, meaning they have to go through testing and training. The certification gets renewed every two years, Adamle said.

Since last September, Adamle said they have been presenting to the freshmen orientation program, trying to introduce the pet therapy program.

“I also got a research grant to find out if in fact this program would be feasible to bring on to this campus,” Adamle said. “There is no other pet therapy program on any campus. We just analyzed the results of that study and it was very positive. I was just trying to bring that communication between a human-animal bond to a different population, and obviously it’s been very successful.”

Adamle said they presented their program to the resident hall directors and handed out 250 flyers to different organizations on campus this past August. Since then, the schedule of planning pet therapy programs for different organizations has boomed, she said.

Last year alone, more than 75 students in seven different residence halls attended a pet therapy program, including those students affected by the Allyn Hall fire.

“They really got joy from the dogs being there when they were loading and unloading things,” Adamle said. “They just really needed to pet a dog.”

During a pet therapy session, the dogs are in a secured room with a closed door and students are asked not to have food around the dogs. Once the dogs settle into the new area, the leashes are taken off and they mingle with the students. After the program, it is asked that the room be cleaned.

Nicole Mosca, senior electronic media production major, and Amanda Luttrell, senior art education major, recently had a pet therapy program for McDowell and Korb Halls.

“I decide to hold the program because almost everyone loves animals and I miss my cats at home,” Mosca said. When asked how many students came to the program, Mosca said she lost count after 50.

“It was extremely successful,” Mosca said. “I thought people would come for the food but they were just all over the animals.”

Senior zoology major Kim Thomson, senior zoology major, said she came to the program because she loves animals and is a “dog person.”

“I have a dog at home, so it was nice to see other people’s dogs and play with them,” Thompson said. “It was just nice to see dogs since we can’t have them in the residence halls.”

The one concern Adamle has is the program might send a wrong message about having pets in residence halls.

“This program is not designed to encourage students to bring pets to campus,” Adamle said. “Students are here for a job – they are here to be a student and to learn and get their degree. But in the meantime there is that gap they may be missing and we’re here to fill in that gap.”

Contact features correspondent Carrie Circosta at [email protected].