Animal Assisted Therapy is an alternative approach to stress reduction, enhancement of social bonding, and moderation of physiological factors related to health and psychological well-being.
KSN has begun an innovative and fun program to improve the educational environment for students, faculty and staff.
Tillie Mae is a miniature Australian Shepherd, certified as a therapy dog by H.A.L.O., who is available for visits on most work days at the university. She resides in an office suite with 6 faculty and staff members. Individuals who want to sit with her and play or go for a walk sign in and enjoy between 5 minutes and an hour interacting with her. Her gregarious nature makes every visit special.
Tillie also visits classrooms at the request of the faculty member. She is often requested for a classroom visit prior to a stressful event such as an exam or a presentation. Data is collected regarding her visit from both the faculty member and the students who participate. Accommodations are made for those wishing to have no contact with a dog.
Tillie’s presence on campus is helpful to students on several levels. Tillie provides a method to modify stress and anxiety in a college that requires high performance on a daily basis. Tillie also assists students to think outside the box and understand that as a health care professional, patients need to be analyzed from a holistic approach.
As early as the mid-1800s, nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale was credited as an advocate of animal therapy. In her Notes on Nursing, she states “a small pet is often an excellent companion for the sick, for long chronic cases especially.” Nightingale had, for a time, an animal companion named Athena the owl which she carried in her pocket. Tillie is part of an ongoing research project to measure the effect of the presence of a dog in the nursing school environment.
KSN also has two puppies in training for working as therapy dogs. Bonnie is a second Australian Shepherd and Tucker is a Yorkie. Both puppies are available for interaction based on the handler’s approval. Check with Dr. Barnes in 203 or Dr. Cook in 103 regarding the puppies’ availability. You can help develop the character of the therapy puppies! These dogs are also part of ongoing research about animal assisted therapy.