Texas State to host stress relieving dogs during finals

Senior News Reporter

As finals week approaches, the dogs of Divine Canines will make their return to Alkek Library and providing students with unconditional love and stress relief.

The canines will return for their fifth visit to Texas State May 6 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and May 7 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Students having a “ruff” time studying for finals can find the therapy dogs, accompanied by their handler teams, on the second and fourth floors of the library and in the Alkek Teaching Theater.

The Austin-based organization provides canine therapy services to various locations and individuals, said Max Woodfin, executive director of Divine Canines. The Alkek event has become a personal favorite for volunteers and their dogs, Woodfin said.

“We are treated like royalty,” Woodfin said. “Dog owners know if they sign up in time, they are going to have a poster with their dog’s picture on it.”

Woodfin said the owners who sign up for the Alkek showing sometimes participate in more “pressure-packed” events at psychiatric hospitals. He said, by contrast, study breaks at Texas State give the owners a chance to relax and show off their dogs.

“Volunteers know their dogs are going to be treated as very special critters,” Woodfin said.

Woodfin said Divine Canines officials hope to bring as many as 12 dogs each day. One of the dogs is Kaxan, a terrier mix named after the KXAN news outlet in Austin.

“I guess you would describe Kaxan as a Texas special edition,” Woodfin said. “He was literally a stray found in an alley behind of the TV station of KXAN News.”

Students will have plenty of room to sit down and talk to the dogs.

Woodfin said all the dogs are household pets and must complete a series of tests and certifications, including a five-week training program, to officially become Divine Canines. He said owners must renew their dogs’ certification annually.

People are beginning to realize how much influence a well-behaved dog can have on those in need, Woodfin said.

Kay Hetherly, Learning Commons assistant, leads a team of staff and student volunteers in the library to ensure the event runs smoothly and safely. She said the dogs from Divine Canines are always well behaved and are a treat to have visit Alkek.

Hetherly said therapy dogs arrived at Alkek in 2013 after library officials followed the growing trend of using animals as stress relievers. The proposal was accepted, and the program has since been a success with students, she said.

“Dog therapy appeals to such a broad range of people,” Hetherly said. “We’ve had a much bigger crowd for this than anything else we’ve tried.”

Hetherly said over 500 people showed up in a two-hour period to last semester’s event. She described the event as a “total high” due to watching how the dogs transformed the energy of the crowd.

“We hope that students have a chance to relax a little bit during a very stressful time and understand we really care about them here in the library,” Hetherly said.

Lorissa Soto, exercise sports science senior and Learning Commons assistant, said this will be her third year working as a volunteer for the Divine Canines event.

“Everyone is smiling, and the dogs are so cute,” Soto said. “The dogs are happy, and we’re happy. The interaction is awesome.”

Jessica McClean, undergraduate instruction and outreach librarian, often volunteers for stress-relieving events. McClean said her favorite part of the event is when people start talking about their own dogs.

“Even with people they don’t know—they start sharing pictures of their dog,” McClean said. “It’s just something we all have in common. We all love dogs.”