Warming up with Hound Hugs and Kanine Kisses

With the return of freezing temps to Minnesota, students can take heart in the return of something a little warmer (and furrier): Hound Hugs and Kanine Kisses. 

A yearly tradition since 2012, the Alliance of Therapy Dogs returned once again for  spring semester Thursday. Several volunteers with their furry companions gathered in the Centennial Student Union Hearth Lounge. After signing a liability waiver, students were able to bond with the lovable therapy dogs. 

Communications coordinator Lenny Koupal has helped organize these therapy dog sessions for several years and said it was a thrill to bring back the sessions after a long break. 

“It’s great, especially when students coming back to campus and even though it’s only a couple of weeks in, people are needing this and it’s just great to see them come for whatever reason,” Koupal said, “They may have left their dog at home, came back from from winter break, or they just stopped because they love dogs or they’re starting to feel a little stressed. There’s so many reasons why students come but it’s always the same result. Smiles. As long as I’m here, it’s gonna happen and I hope whoever is here after me continues to bring them because it’s necessary.”

The dogs brought for these sessions are certified by the Alliance for Therapy Dogs, a national organization that works to form a special connection between kind individuals and their loyal dogs who are then able to spread joy to people, both young and old. 

Returning volunteer Judy Simonsen brought her young Bloodhound Withers for the very first time to MSU, and explained how Withers came to be a therapy dog. 

“He has a kind and gentle personality which is required to be a therapy dog, and we felt that he would enjoy it. Our other dog, Beckett, has been a therapy dog for many years and he’s kind of following in those footsteps.” Simonsen said. “It is his first time to come to MSU; he’s been to some other visits but this is his first time at MSU. We hope that we can help to take some of the stress off of things.”

Volunteer Matt Lehman brought in his 3-year-old Doberman pinscher Katyusha who has been a registered therapy dog since November. Lehman said they both enjoy giving comfort to MSU students. 

“We enjoy the group that we’re working with. I just know that my dog loves this kind of attention. And I think that it does some good for the people who want to come and meet the dogs.” Lehman said. 

The Hound Hugs and Kanine Kisses sessions will be held every third Thursday of the month at the CSU Hearth Lounge during the spring semester. They will also hold sessions during Finals Week which will be on the last week of April and the 2023-2024 academic year.

Write to Anahi Zuniga at anahi.zuniga@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: Since 2012, Hound Hugs and Kanine Kisses have visited Minnesota State’s campus to comfort students. The dogs return every third Thursday of the month. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)

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