My School Is Cool: Petting Dogs at SAIC.

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.