Published on September 3rd, 2021 | by University Communications


Students greeted by puppies (and a pig) during Welcome Week event

Lions, and puppies, and mini pigs, oh, my!

On Friday, September 3, University Campus was visited by some four-legged creatures as part of Welcome Week. Students were able to meet therapy and service dogs on the Kirk Lawn as well as volunteers, faculty, and staff. The dogs enjoyed getting pets and belly rubs while the students took a little break during the first week of classes.

The event is designed to help relieve some of the back-to-school stress. “Many students shared stories about their own animals and said things like, ‘I needed this,’ and ‘I didn’t realize how much I missed my dog’,” said Dawn McElveen, director of Student and Family Engagement

Dr. Rhondda Waddell, associate dean of the College of Education and Social Services, also brought Benito, her 2-year-old American mini pig to the event.

“This was his was his first trip out with people, and he is learning to be a therapy pig,” said Waddell, who also is a professor of social work. “The students were kind to him and seemed to be thrilled to help in his training today.”

Dr. Debbie Mims, assistant professor of criminal justice, helped to organize the therapy dogs (and their humans) who attended and about eight different teams and breeds participated.

“The human-animal connection is so valuable to improving the physical and mental health of the people that connect with the animals,” Waddell said. “The human-animal bond also offers the animals a sense of purpose when they are fully engaged in service. Our students are experiencing some anxiety and fears related to the pandemic and to the start of a new school year. There are stresses related to being in a new environment with many new people to meet and interact with, the animals offer unconditional love and comfort.”

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