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Library to host therapy dog visit

Dasher, a therapy dog who is a part of the PALS Pet Therapy program. (Image courtesy of the East Bay SPCA Facebook page)
Dasher, a therapy dog who is a part of the PALS Pet Therapy program. (Image courtesy of the East Bay SPCA Facebook page)

Around this time in the semester, the F.W. Olin Library is usually full of students busy studying or doing last-minute research, but later this week, there will be a few new guests. These guests are trained to help students relax before finals—they’re also covered in fur.

On Dec. 5, the PALS Pet Therapy program will be stopping by the library to help students relieve stress by playing with some lovable canines. The PALS Pet Therapy program is part of the East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or SPCA. The East Bay SPCA was founded in 1874 and is a non-profit organization that works to save lost and abandoned animals. The PALS Pet Therapy program brings trained dogs to facilities where people in need of some love–such as stressed college students–can relax by spending time with the animals.

“Studies have shown that interaction with a pet can increase a person’s health by lowering their blood pressure and heart rate, and improving their overall well being,” according to the East Bay SPCA website.

All of the dogs in the Pals Pet Therapy program must pass the Canine Good Citizen test through the American Kennel Club (AKC). The Canine Good Citizen program “is a two-part program that stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and basic good manners for dogs,” according to the AKC website. The dogs must then pass the 10-step test to receive a certificate from the AKC. Animals must then be evaluated by a PALS coordinator and attend a workshop to help prepare the animals and handlers to be a PALS team.

This will be the first time that the library at Mills has hosted a therapy animal program. Reference Librarian Leia Casey, who coordinated the event with the East Bay SPCA, got the idea for the therapy dog visit when she heard of similar programs at other college libraries, such as UC Berkeley and Holy Names. Casey hopes that the visit will help students relieve stress and expand the traditional meaning of a library.

“Basically, we want to show our appreciation for the community and students at Mills,” Casey said. “We want to make the library not just a place for research but also for community.”

Junior Greta Lopez was excited to hear of the PALS visit and will be glad to take a break from studying to play with the friendly canines.

“I’ve had a stressful semester and I think this will really help me to relax,” Lopez said. “Who doesn’t want to pet dogs and cuddle them?”

Casey estimates that there will be two dogs at the event and encourages all students to stop by.

“If this goes well, I hope to continue doing this event every semester,” Casey said.

The event will take place in Thursday Dec. 5 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Library Lounge, which is located on the first floor in the former Audio Visual Listening/Viewing Room.

Other facilities interested in hosting a Pals Pet Therapy visit can apply to do so on the East Bay SPCA website, where pet owners can also apply to join the Pals team.