During the last two weeks of the semester at the University of Maine, when undergraduates are camping out in Fogler Library poring over textbooks and notes in preparation for finals, Joey will be on duty. He may be only a few feet tall, but his silky hair, dark brown eyes and gentle demeanor make him the perfect calming agent.
Joey is one of seven certified therapy dogs who will have special office hours in the Reserve Reading Room on the library’s first floor, May 1–8, for any student or faculty member looking to escape from end-of-semester stress.
No appointment is necessary.
“We really think of this as the student’s library,” Fogler’s Public Relations Manager Gretchen Gfeller says. “They brought the suggestion to us, so we wanted to do it for them. We’re trying to keep it as relaxed and open as we can.”
The event is in response to student suggestions on the library’s comment board to “please bring puppies” during finals week, according to Gfeller, who says this is the first time Fogler Library will host therapy dogs.
Fogler’s staff did research into similar successful programs at the University of New Hampshire and Massachusetts Institute of Technology before reaching out to Rebecca Henderson of Holden-based Renaissance Dogs who organizes a group of trained handlers not affiliated with her business.
Henderson says visiting with the dogs would be great for someone who is missing their own pet, seeks comfort and laughter from animals, or wants a five-minute diversion from studying.
“Studies have proven that petting a dog can lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety,” Henderson says. “What other time are students more stressed than during finals week?”
Seven dogs of various sizes and personalities are scheduled to visit the library, according to Henderson, who will bring her own yellow Labrador retriever Atticus and two papillons, Finch and Keeper. The other dogs include another Lab, a Sheltie, a corgi and a goldendoodle. All of the animals have been trained and certified by either Therapy Dogs International, Therapy Dogs Inc., or Love on a Leash.
One of the dogs scheduled to visit the library is owned by Patty Counihan, director of UMaine’s Career Center.
Counihan’s dog Joey is a 6-year-old Shetland sheepdog, or Sheltie, who will be making his official debut since passing Therapy Dogs International’s certification test a few months ago.
Counihan, who has used Henderson’s boarding, doggie day care and agility training services for years, thinks the event will be a great way to help students and is confident everyone will love Joey.
“Joey is so sweet and cuddly — not to mention soft and furry — and petting him is really soothing. He will just crawl in your lap and snuggle in,” Counihan says of her pet. “I know how nice it is to cuddle with Joey when I’ve had a bad day or if I’m stressed, so I’m looking forward to sharing him with others who might need a four-legged, furry destressor.”
Henderson, whose dogs also volunteer at the Bangor Public Library, is excited to introduce more people to therapy dogs while giving back to the community. She says she is proud of the owners and dogs who are volunteering their time.
Gfeller says if the event is well received, the library would like to expand the program and host the dogs two or three times a semester in addition to finals week.
Dogs will be available in the library 2:30–4:30 p.m. May 1 and May 8; 10 a.m.–noon May 2–3; and 2–4 p.m. May 6–7. For more information or to request disability accommodations, call Gfeller, 207.581.1696.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747