Pet a Pup: Therapy Dogs and Mental Health Event hosted in Hammond Hall


Taken from fitchburgstate instagram page

Emotional, psychological, and social well-being, all which affect everyday lives ranging from the way people dress, talk, eat, sleep, and even breath. Mental health can be affected in many different ways ranging from something as minimal as just a rough day or something as large as not wanting to be here anymore. It is very important to talk about your feelings and seek help, however not everyone feels comfortable doing that. Fitchburg State University took these matters into their own hands and created a therapy dog event in hopes to take the stress away from students.

Sandy Herndon works in the dean’s office at McKay Arts Academy. She is the creator of the Therapy Dog Program and has been running it for the last five years. She states “I can actually see the stress leaving some students. The smiles on their faces as soon as they start petting the dog is the reason I enjoy it so much. Maybe they are missing their dogs at home and the presence of a furry friend just makes them relaxed and comfortable. It’s a breath of fresh aire for them.”

Many students pass the glass window where the event is held and right away their eyes light up. One therapy dog, Daisy, caught the attention of student Christina Veth.

Christina touches base on mental health, saying “Mental health is so important to me, especially when the school year becomes very overwhelming. It’s important for us to find ourselves again through happiness and comfort. This event definitely helps us feel more grounded.”

Christina goes on to share that the dog’s “serotonin” helps students forget about all their worries and responsibilities which is exactly the objective of the program.

The most popular pup, Odin, and his owner Sargent Erin Morreale attend every event and often are the main event. Sarget Erin has raised Odin since he was born. The team went through training after training to get to where they are today, however Odin has always been a natural.

“Dogs are very good at sensing when people need them. We noticed from a very young age that Odin was going to be good at this because he always knew the person that needed him the most. Odin and I have participated in training for mental health such as mental health first aid and crisis team intervention training. So we do have quite a bit under our belt but it’s all just to provide as much as we can to the people who need it.” (Sargent Erin Morreale)

Overall, good mental health is crucial to leading a healthy, fulfilling life. Sargent Erin concludes with “Maybe students don’t feel so open to talking to people about their feelings but usually a dog or an animal is a good way to break that barrier.” It is important to prioritize our mental health, seek help when needed, and support others in maintaining their mental well-being, and a furry friend might be just the way to do that.