Nor’Wester Comfort Dogs Visit Bucks for Midterms


Photo by Gabriella Pirmann

Judith Russo

The dogs are back. Bucks Accessibility Office and Nor’Wester Therapy Dogs: Canine Partners in Education have collaborated to bring comfort dogs to campus.
Comfort dogs, also called therapy dogs, are specially trained and certified to provide comfort and affection according to Deborah Glessner, Nor’Wester Dogs co-founder. They can “increase beneficial healing hormones such as endorphins and oxytocin” while decreasing anxiety.
They come twice a semester during midterm and final exam weeks, providing students and staff “stress relief and emotional support,” says Jennifer Osinski, Director Accessibility Office, M.Ed., MS.
In addition, the organization also participates with the community, in events that support the group’s mission. The group also aids in crisis intervention, in which therapy dog teams work with other groups to support families and students going through a community-wide tragedy.
Katharine Benziger, Clinical Coordinator of the Health Sciences Department strongly believes in the ability of dogs to enhance learning, provide socialization and joy and was seeing this happen in elementary and high schools, colleges, nursing homes and hospitals.
A review of the evidence from 60 previous studies in Frontiers in Psychology found that human animal interaction (HAI) showed “– improvement of social attention, behavior, interpersonal interaction, and mood, reduction of stress-related parameters such as cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure, reduction of self-reported fear and anxiety, and improvement of mental and physical health, especially cardiovascular health:”
Labrador retriever breeder Wendi Huttner and Deborah Glessner, a retired Council Rock librarian and district library-media coordinator created Nor’Wester Readers in 2007. In 2016 they changed their nonprofit’s name to Nor’wester Therapy Dogs: Canine Partners in Education “because our program has become unique as an academic learning program.”
Their therapy dogs were enhancing learning and decreasing stress in all kinds of learning environments and Huttner, a Bucks alum, wanted to share the joy with Bucks. It took her about three years but with the help of Deborah Hoelper, Assistant Director Accessibility Office, she finally succeeded in 2018.
Benziger decided to volunteer, and she has been bringing her own Labrador Kona since 2020 after she and Kona completed training and two levels of certification.
Due to COVID there are only about 20 volunteer teams.
“We are looking for volunteers,” says Wendi Huttner. “It has nothing to do with the type of dog. We have fox terriers and collies.” The process to volunteer is at this link:
“Petting an animal makes a wellness moment. We are happy to do this for the campus,” says Jennifer Osinski. “We are happy everyone is back, students and staff and to give back through this program.”
The dogs were at Bucks Newtown Campus during midterms, and they’ll be back for finals.
Comfort dogs will be on campus Tuesday Nov 30, Thursday Dec 2, Mon Dec 6, Wed Dec 8, 11-1PM at the Solarium Rollins Center.