OSU Pet Therapy Program Helps Students Transition To College Life
STILLWATER, Oklahoma - A pilot program at Oklahoma State University is proving dogs might be the best medicine to calm our nerves.
There's no denying it, there's just something about a dog that makes us feel happy, which is why OSU launched the dog therapy program, Pete's Pet Posse.
Charlie, a German Shepherd mix, has learned some tricks, but getting attention comes naturally for the charmer.
“He's a lady's man, and he knows it,” OSU sophomore Alex Miller said while petting the pup.
Charlie was one of the first dogs initiated into Pete's Pet Posse, or P3 for short. It was the program, and Charlie, that helped heal Miller's homesickness her freshman year.
“I went inside and there was Charlie just sitting there and then I started crying because I missed my dogs so much,” said Miller.
That was last fall and since, the two have formed quite a connection.
“He brings so much happiness and so much joy and all this energy,” Miller said.
Miller, who has three dogs at her parent's house in Fort Worth, calls Stillwater her home away from home. And she calls Charlie her "dog away from dogs."
“He just gives you something else to focus on and something else to love and, like, a different emotion to give instead of being so bogged down by school,” she said with Charlie by her side.
Enhancing emotional wellness is the point of the program. Charlie's mom, Kendria Cost and Veterinarian Lara Sypniewski helped launch the program in September, 2013.
“They just have this really amazing knack for making everything better, it almost seems they can touch us in such a way, I don't think we give the dog enough credit. They're amazing little creatures,” Dr. Sypniewski said.
P3's 13 therapy dogs are all owned by OSU faculty and staff. The dogs have gone through training, as have their handlers, which is another benefit of the program; each person who meets a pooch, meets a person on the other end of the leash.
“Then all of the sudden you have a human connection because it's the humans that are gonna help get us where we need to be,” said Sypniewski.
The pups sometimes hang out in the offices, then other days the cowdogs will be out and about on campus, always surrounded by smiles.
“People love dogs,” Sypniewski said. “You can't feel sorry for yourself when you're petting a dog, they just have the ability to take it away. You put your hands on them and all the sudden your worries and stress melt away, if only for five minutes, at least it gives your body and brain a reprieve.”
Sypniewski said research backs up the claims that it works, dogs do relieve stress. And our video confirms the same thing.
Pete's Pet Posse is not funded by OSU, it runs solely off donations. All of the dogs and their handlers are volunteers. The program expects to initiate about 14 more dogs in the spring.