Dogs help students work through stress

Hound Hugs and Kanine Kisses gathered in the Centennial Student Union to provide comfort for students experiencing stress Wednesday. Lenny Koupal, CSU Communications Coordinator, organizes the recurring event with the help of volunteers. 

“It’s the most rewarding thing that I do, as far as seeing the positive end result,” Koupal said. 

For as long as a decade, therapy dogs visit campus periodically to socialize with students and decompress from a hectic schedule. The students that attend Hound Hugs and Kanine Kisses often search for relief from a heavy workload, miss their animals at home, or grieve the loss of a pet of their own. 

“There’s so many things that these dogs do for students, whether it’s distressing or reminding them of home,” Koupal said. 

The certified dogs come from the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, a national organization. Its mission hopes to utilize special animals to form connections with both young and old, through the smiles and joy that the dogs provide. The volunteers take their dogs to visit various locations outside of campus such as nursing and retirement homes, middle and elementary schools, and daycares. 

“These people are amazing. They volunteer their time, they show up with their dogs, and most of the time the dogs just love it because the students are so attentive to the dogs,” Koupal said. 

The animals all carry their own personalities and bring something different to the table. Maggie, one of the original dogs, inspired the name of the event because she gives hugs and kisses to visitors. Gracie, a toy poodle, can entertain an audience by jumping through hoops. Van Gogh, an australian doodle, is mellow and responds well to affection. 

Van completed his last day of training to become a certified therapy dog at the event. His owner, Victoria Tambornino, adopted two-year-old Van almost a year ago. She stressed the importance of therapy dogs maintaining a certain temperament when interacting with visitors. 

“You can grab their ears, their feet, their tail, and they’re not going to react,” Tambornino said. 

Beckett, a stoic bloodhound, comes from a lineage of incredible tracking and training abilities. Her owner, Judy Simonsen, has been involved with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs for 20 years. 

“Therapy dogs are people’s pets,” Simonsen said. “Well-behaved pets; usually have had some obedience training and ones that show an aptitude for being friendly and visiting with people. Their job is to volunteer and make people happy.” 

The event will continue to take place every third Wednesday of the month and the first day of finals week in the lower level of the CSU. Members of the Alliance of Hound Hugs and Kanine Kisses search for more volunteers and encourage students to attend the event.

“We are always looking for people that are interested in volunteering and have a friendly dog that might be suitable,” Simonsen said.  

Header Photo: Dogs were the center of attention last Wednesday as students gathered in the Centennial Student Union to pet and hug the therapy dogs. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)

Write to Mercedes Kauphusman at mercedes.kauphusman@mnsu.edu

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