Comfort Dogs on Campus a Success!

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Comfort Dogs on Campus a Success!

Byron Guzman, Centurion Staff

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Bucks collaborated with Nor’Wester Therapy Dogs and hosted the first ever Comfort Dogs on Campus event. The event was held on March 6 and 8 in the Student Services Center, located in the lower level of the Rollins Center.
In this event, a group of handlers came and brought their dogs so that students could relax and relieve stress before midterm exams. Students could pet dogs, take pictures of them, and enjoy a friendly conversation with the handlers as they played with the dogs.
The event seemed to be a great success, as there was a great turnout of students coming to meet the dogs. Even students that seemed unsure of this event, or were afraid of dogs in general, turned out to enjoy the event, as the handlers did a great job with training the well-behaved dogs.
During the event, students could meet the two founders of the Nor’Wester Therapy Dogs organization: Wendi Huttner and Deborah Glessner. Glessner is a retired librarian from Council Rock as well as a district library-media coordinator, and Huttner is a Labrador Retriever breeder. The two have known each other for a long time and became friends through a shared interest in horses.
The organization was founded when Huttner expressed her interest in dog programs and Glessner took interest in Huttner’s idea. For 11 years, the two have kept the organization alive with the aid of 55 volunteer therapy dog teams and have since then helped many children in six school districts from elementary to high school, and now, college.
When meeting Deborah Glessner, she introduced her dog, Heidi, a pup who, according to Glessner, “can’t hold her licker,” seeing as how Heidi was so very friendly, that she would lick people quite generously. Fortunately, Glessner, anticipating this situation, came prepared with some wet wipes.
Glessner was happy to talk about herself and the organization, even revealing that she had learned to read lips due to being born deaf, and that she had trained her dog herself .
When talking about the program, Glessner was very happy to be a part of the organization and expressed her gratitude towards her co-founder. “Wendi works very hard,” she happily praised, “she really deserves all the credit.”
With that in mind, the interview then veered towards Huttner, who introduced herself and her dog, Bode, a yellow lab.
When talking about her organization, she showed her love for dogs and how helpful they are for children. “Dogs are non-judgmental and they help open up students for learning. We’ve seen many breakthroughs because of these dogs.” She also stated that on top of visiting schools, they have also attended candlelight vigils. She then expressed her passion toward the organization, saying that she was very serious about it.
One way she expresses her seriousness is her priority for safety. “Safety is our number 1 concern,” she said, “when we bring our dogs to the schools, we always ask parents if it is ok to bring our dogs near their children and we always check for any kids who might have allergies.”
A great example of this was shown when one student was very nervous around her dog Bode. Huttner slowly eased the student into comfort by showing how well-behaved she was, obeying her commands to sit and stay and also comforted the student by having a nice conversation with her and her friends.
On top of Huttner’s seriousness, she also talked about “keeping the quality of the organization,” and also about the biggest problem her organization faces. “We hope to continue to grow,” she said, “but our biggest problem right now, is finding more volunteers and therapy dogs.” She welcomes anyone who is willing to help volunteer and share their love for not only dogs, but helping people and interacting with others.
If anyone is interested in learning more about how to volunteer, visit the organization’s website at norwesterreaders.org, where you can also learn more about the organization itself. But if you are more interested in meeting other people’s dogs then don’t worry, because they’re scheduled to visit again during finals week in early May. If the event was a hit during midterms, then it will be an even bigger hit come finals week.

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