My School Is Cool: Petting Dogs at SAIC.

posted in: Day In The Life, Paean, School 16
Me and Butter! Photo/Video: Butter's Mom.
Me and Butter! This photo is really a screenshot of a video because the lady who took it (Butter’s mom) had her hands full with Butter and took video instead of just a plain picture. I think it works, anyway. 


It’s been awhile since I was a college student — ahem 15 years ahem — I forgot just how stressed out people get at the end of the semester. It’s pretty tense around here.

At the School of the Art Institute (SAIC), “Critique Week” is, I’m realizing, only the half of it. There are still papers due, presentations to make, big projects to turn in, and if you’re studying painting, I suspect you’ve got some painting to do, too. Blech: painting under deadline. Sounds lousy — kinda like quilting under a deadline. I’ve been there, Picasso. You’ve got this. Just take it daub by daub.

The Student Programming Board at SAIC knows that everyone’s freaking out a little bit — Irena who works on the school paper with me has three papers due tomorrow! — so a few years ago they made the final week of school “De-Stress Week.” The Board provides “pop-up” activities around school to help students relax for a moment or two in this busy, anxious time. There was a hot tea bar yesterday, for example, and they’ve served “Breakfast for Dinner!” at the Neiman Center, our student union-y place.

And today? Today, they offered three hours of “animal therapy!” There were pups to pet! I got to pet pups! At school!

I should’ve done undergrad here, too. This is the life!

There were three therapy dogs at the Neiman Center today and I got quality time with two of them: a Golden Retriever named Sedona and Butter, the Irish Wolfhound in the photo. All the dogs were trained as canine companions. As I stroked Sedona’s soft, rust-colored hair, I felt the knots in the shoulders of my very soul melt away. Petting a dog is so good. As I watched Sedona’s belly rise and fall (she was laying on the floor, the epitome of chill, while four of us students ooh-ed and ahh-ed and stroked her) I asked her handler about what it means for a dog to be trained for therapy.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “They have to learn the usual commands: sit, stay, and so on. But they also have to learn not to grab for things like medical equipment, for example. Tubes, machines — sometimes those things look like toys or interesting objects to them, you know? We don’t want them to lick too much. And they have to be okay with strangers.”

I was a stranger to Sedona and Butter for less than two seconds. That’s how they both made me feel, anyway.

Wanna know a secret?

I’ve been thinking seriously about getting a pet. More later.

16 Responses

  1. Sally
    | Reply

    Good pic of you. Love your hair. Pets are great all around therapy. My son lives near Lincoln Park—stay warm 16 below windchill. Stay warm & drink hot cocoa!!

  2. Carla Gutman
    | Reply

    Looks like the therapy as helping you Mary. My son’s college offers the same with the therapy dogs during final week along with free hugs; free coffee and a place to mellow out if things get too stressed.

  3. Ann Otlewski
    | Reply

    Pets are great, but you travel so much. Would you have a dependable pet sitter?

    • Mary
      | Reply

      Ann, you are so right! I have many thoughts to share about this!

  4. Dorothy
    | Reply

    I have always had a dog and either one or two kitties all at the same time. I would never be without either one. They all say “breathe”, “breathe deep-exhale” ,

  5. Ann Bailey
    | Reply

    You describe perfectly the essence of a dog: “I was a stranger for – two seconds”. They’re so wonderful. Unconditional love in exchange for kindness.

  6. Ivy
    | Reply

    When you say pet, you mean a fish, right? Make it two so they won’t be lonely Don’t you travel too much for a furry friend–cat, dog, bunny, guinea pig? What a beautiful pooch! Butter 🙂

  7. Susan
    | Reply

    You look sooooo relaxed and genuinely happy in the photo….yes, Mary. A pet. A lot of work but some of the happiest work you will ever do!

  8. Rhonda Mossner
    | Reply

    My son adopted a retired service dog from a pet shelter in Indy a couple of years ago. She had been a companion to a homeless person and they found her under a bridge. Anyway, so “Hazel” went home with my son Mark and they were the best of buds for almost two years. She was perfect. Didn’t beg for food, didn’t lick, didn’t bark unnecessarily and was very good with strangers. Didn’t like storms, but that’s understandable given her background. When my son had a health issue one day and passed out in his apartment, Hazel was right there over him and barked and barked until someone came to help. My son said that before he passed out, Hazel was circling him endlessly. She knew something wasn’t right.
    Unfortunately, Hazel passed away in October. We still miss her.
    There are real gems out there who need adopting. If you ask at a shelter, they might be able to lead you to a retired service pup in need of a new home! Glad you shared the experience, Mary!

  9. nadine donovan
    | Reply

    I love animals! I would be such a lost and sad mess if I did not have my fur babies. One in particular is my ultimate fur baby. I am home all of the time because my kids are grown and my husband travels frequently for business. My Gia is a yorkiepoodle. I love her. She is with me everywhere. I find that I can’t sleep if she is not with me. She calms me and helps me to focus on good things. I highly recommend a fur baby for you.

  10. Rita Farro
    | Reply

    You need to dog/share. I have often thought this is a good idea. Many young people work long hours or travel too much to have a pet. But, on the other hand, many retired people would love to have a pet, but cannot afford the expense. I think you need to line up a retired person…and then do some co-pet-parenting. You could get the dog, pay for the food, vet bills, etc. But when you go to school/work/travel — the dog stays with the step-mom.

    • Mary
      | Reply

      Rita. You are a brilliant genius. But we knew that. This is great. (Thanks to everyone, as usual, for wonderful feedback!)

  11. Christy Schreck
    | Reply

    I adopted a wonderful furbaby about 18 months ago. My husband is in a long-term care facility and I was very lonely. I just love my little Macy, but sitting with her on my lap has seriously cut into my quilt-making time. 😉

  12. Barbara
    | Reply

    As I’m reading writing this, my mini schnauzer Willy, wants attention and keeps dropping the ball in my lap to throw. The living is close by so he keeps coming back very quickly, too quickly. This is how it is when I’m quilting too, oh well, I love him! You look so happy and relaxed Mary. Have a wonderful holiday with our family, and friends, that’s what it’s really all about. xo

  13. Barbara
    | Reply

    Blame Willy on my typing mistakes.

  14. […] hinted at something a few days ago. I hinted that I was thinking of getting a […]

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