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Kent State goes to the dogs for student well-being

By jim Published: February 16, 2010

By Carol Biliczky
Beacon Journal staff writer

When Kathy Adamle walked her Golden Retrievers on the Kent State campus, students stopped her regularly to smooch a pooch.

From those humble beginnings a research project was born and a pet therapy program — believed to be the only one of its kind nationwide — created.

Today, Adamle, a KSU assistant professor of nursing, regularly takes her dogs Patrick and Jake Muldoon to KSU residence halls through the Dogs on Campus (D.O.C.) Pet Therapy Program.

She said that while the university tries to meet students' needs in many areas, nothing was being done to alleviate their loneliness in leaving their pets behind at their family homes.

''I thought, 'What the heck, why do you have to be ill to enjoy this?' '' Adamle said. ''Nobody was looking at this as an intervention with relatively well people.''

While well-trained dogs and their handlers often visit hospitals, nursing homes and the like, Adamle had stumbled onto something new: introducing therapy dogs into a university setting.

Since 2004 she has researched the benefits of pet visits to residence halls. She copyrighted her D.O.C. program and trademarked the logo that advertises it. She has published her research in the Journal of American College Health, the only scholarly publication nationwide devoted to the health of college students.

Her team of 10 volunteers and their well-trained pets make regular visits to KSU residence halls in good times and bad, simply for well-being visits or to comfort students in the aftermath of a tragedy.

One crisis visit was after a fire in Allen Hall several years ago, Kimberly Ferguson, coordinator of residential communities, recalled.

''One dog went over to a girl and put his head on the girl's shoulder. I'm sure he was saying, 'It's going to be OK,' '' Ferguson said. ''I saw students putting their face in the dog's fur and just sobbing.''

The visits are strategically scheduled between 7 and 8 p.m., when students are back from dinner but before they settle down to study or go out. The visits are held in closed rooms so that students who are allergic to dogs or don't like them can stay away.

During wellness visits, ''the first thing students do is open up their telephone and say, 'Here's a picture of my dog,' '' Adamle said.

Since the inception of the program, Adamle, her volunteers and their pets have visited more than 4,000 students, with constant demand for more.

When a modest story about Adamle's work appeared in Kent State's in-house newsletter, she received more than 50 e-mails from residence hall directors, students and even faculty members who want to bring the program into their departments.

''I feel college students, especially freshmen, are very stressed, particularly around midterms or finals,'' Adamle told KSU's Einside newsletter.

The D.O.C. dogs are particularly well suited to the unpredictability of residence halls. All are certified as therapy dogs through the Delta Society, which seeks to advance human well-being through positive interactions with pets.

Adamle's two dogs also are certified as national search dogs and are part of the Geauga County Sheriff's K-9 unit.

Starting next fall, she will be doing physical testing of students before and after encounters with the pets. Her goal is to quantify how the visits helped to relieve their stress, buoy their mood or lessen their loneliness.

But her longer-range goals are grander still — to import the program to other colleges.

While the whole idea may seem a tad silly, it isn't, said KSU junior Anna Riegelsberger of Strongsville. Therapy dogs visited her Kent State home, Wright Hall, last fall.

''I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it,'' she said. ''When you actually go through the experience, it isn't childish at all.''

Contact Adamle at kadamle@kent.edu for details about D.O.C.


Carol Biliczky can be reached at 330-996-3729 or cbiliczky@thebeaconjournal.com.




Amanda Borgio of Vermilion gets a kiss from Molly, a chocolate lab owned Joni Stoll (R) of Rootstown during the Dogs on Campus, a Pet Therapy Program on the Kent State University campus. (Paul Tople/Akron Beacon Journal)



When Kathy Adamle walked her Golden Retrievers on the Kent State campus, students stopped her regularly to smooch a pooch.

From those humble beginnings a research project was born and a pet therapy program — believed to be the only one of its kind nationwide — created.

Today, Adamle, a KSU assistant professor of nursing, regularly takes her dogs Patrick and Jake Muldoon to KSU residence halls through the Dogs on Campus (D.O.C.) Pet Therapy Program.

She said that while the university tries to meet students' needs in many areas, nothing was being done to alleviate their loneliness in leaving their pets behind at their family homes.

''I thought, 'What the heck, why do you have to be ill to enjoy this?' '' Adamle said. ''Nobody was looking at this as an intervention with relatively well people.''

While well-trained dogs and their handlers often visit hospitals, nursing homes and the like, Adamle had stumbled onto something new: introducing therapy dogs into a university setting.

Since 2004 she has researched the benefits of pet visits to residence halls. She copyrighted her D.O.C. program and trademarked the logo that advertises it. She has published her research in the Journal of American College Health, the only scholarly publication nationwide devoted to the health of college students.

Her team of 10 volunteers and their well-trained pets make regular visits to KSU residence halls in good times and bad, simply for well-being visits or to comfort students in the aftermath of a tragedy.

One crisis visit was after a fire in Allen Hall several years ago, Kimberly Ferguson, coordinator of residential communities, recalled.

''One dog went over to a girl and put his head on the girl's shoulder. I'm sure he was saying, 'It's going to be OK,' '' Ferguson said. ''I saw students putting their face in the dog's fur and just sobbing.''

The visits are strategically scheduled between 7 and 8 p.m., when students are back from dinner but before they settle down to study or go out. The visits are held in closed rooms so that students who are allergic to dogs or don't like them can stay away.

During wellness visits, ''the first thing students do is open up their telephone and say, 'Here's a picture of my dog,' '' Adamle said.

Since the inception of the program, Adamle, her volunteers and their pets have visited more than 4,000 students, with constant demand for more.

When a modest story about Adamle's work appeared in Kent State's in-house newsletter, she received more than 50 e-mails from residence hall directors, students and even faculty members who want to bring the program into their departments.

''I feel college students, especially freshmen, are very stressed, particularly around midterms or finals,'' Adamle told KSU's Einside newsletter.

The D.O.C. dogs are particularly well suited to the unpredictability of residence halls. All are certified as therapy dogs through the Delta Society, which seeks to advance human well-being through positive interactions with pets.

Adamle's two dogs also are certified as national search dogs and are part of the Geauga County Sheriff's K-9 unit.

Starting next fall, she will be doing physical testing of students before and after encounters with the pets. Her goal is to quantify how the visits helped to relieve their stress, buoy their mood or lessen their loneliness.

But her longer-range goals are grander still — to import the program to other colleges.

While the whole idea may seem a tad silly, it isn't, said KSU junior Anna Riegelsberger of Strongsville. Therapy dogs visited her Kent State home, Wright Hall, last fall.

''I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it,'' she said. ''When you actually go through the experience, it isn't childish at all.''

Contact Adamle at kadamle@kent.edu for details about D.O.C.


Carol Biliczky can be reached at 330-996-3729 or cbiliczky@thebeaconjournal.com.

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