This past Wednesday, October 12, marked the day when dogs visited the FRCC Westminster campus for the Paws to Destress event. However, these were not simply ordinary dogs that students and staff members had the opportunity to see and pet. These were therapy dogs from the GoTeam nonprofit organization to help students destress from midterms.
As soon as the dogs and their handlers walked into the SOC, where they stayed from 11:30 am to approximately 12:30 pm, people began to gather and “aw” at the cuteness of the animals. Three dogs trotted into the SOC, though their handlers did not let people pet them initially. After a few moments of letting the dogs adjust to this new college environment, they let them loose, and pets were everywhere.
The dog that was the hardest to miss was Bansky, a large female Newfoundland breed who had only been working as a therapy dog for a year. However, the other two dogs were definitely not ignored. They were Haku, a male Shiba Inu born in 2014, and Chama, a female foxhound mix associated with the team since 2015. Those who traveled to the library from 12:30 to 1:30 pm the same day also got a chance to meet those dogs alongside yet another dog: Finnegan, a male English doodle mix.
A steady congregation of people surrounded the ever-calm dogs, though the dogs certainly didn’t mind asking for pets, belly rubs or chin scritches. Some in the SOC even encouraged those walking in the hallways right next to the SOC to come in and see the cuddleable canines, while the handlers passed out cards that echoed back to trading cards and which gave out information on the dogs seen that day. However, Finnegan’s cards were not present as his handler had unfortunately forgotten them.
Some might wonder: What would set a normal dog apart from a therapy dog?
They had to be “good-natured and pass certain tests to become officially certified as a therapy dog,” said Kelly Thomas, the handler for Banksy, in response to this inquiry.
Indeed, GoTeam’s official website elaborates that “[every] dog [under the organization] must pass an AKC-approved Good Canine Citizenship test and undergo a two-day training.”
Another important question concerns the welfare of college students, especially the ones on Front Range. A 2015 survey conducted by the American College Health Association found that 45% of college students went through “more than average stress”, while 12.7% went through “tremendous stress.”
A February 2018 newsletter from the National Institutes of Health reported that cortisol, a stress-causing hormone, and blood pressure levels have been known to have decreased from interacting with animals. It also is known to lower feelings of loneliness, “increase feelings of social support”, and lightens up moods.
The official website for the GoTeam organization, which provides further information about its mission, can be found here: https://goteamdogs.org/. They also have social media accounts on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Linkedin at the bottom of their page. Some of the dogs’ Instagram accounts were provided at the event: Banksy’s official Instagram page can be found at the handle @Banksy_the_newfie, and Haku’s Instagram handle is @hakuya.shiba. For those who prefer contacting through email, Banksy’s email was provided as well: Banksythenewfie@yahoo.com.