Dog Therapy Comes to Gannon University’s Recreation and Wellness Center

Posted: January 17, 2018

Call it therapy of the furry, four-legged variety.

Gannon University's Recreation and Wellness Center is partnering with local organizations to bring dog therapy to campus on the second Wednesday of every month starting January 17. This month's event, from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Recreation and Wellness Center, is free and open to the Gannon community.

Therapy animals have a proven positive effect on emotional and mental wellbeing, said Laura Casella, interim director of the Recreation and Wellness Center. Spending time with them can be particularly helpful for stressed or anxious students facing the academic rigors of college, she said.

The simple act of petting a dog "lowers blood pressure naturally and it's making our students feel at home," said Casella, whose two flat-coated retrievers, Bella and Benny, are part of the program.

"Our job is to make students want to stay, to feel comfortable, to be enriched, to be engaged," she said. "That's the whole mission behind this program."

The Recreation and Wellness Center works with several local organizations, including Therapy Dogs United, to bring the dogs to campus.

"It fits into our mission of wellness. Wellness doesn't mean you're just physically fit," she said. "It means you're psychologically happy as well."

Dogs make great therapists, Casella said.

"Dogs are accepting no matter who you are," she said. "They don't see the differences in people. The dogs that come in are very welcoming. They're happy to be here. They're happy to see the students. The tail's wagging and you see our students giggling and laughing."

The Wellness and Recreation Center will host dogs again on Wednesday, March 14, from 5 to 6 p.m.