Furry Friends

UT Martin beach volleyball players (l-r) Kambree Lucas, Olivia O’Keefe and Mary Leslie Cranford have their photo taken with Student Health and Counseling Services’ two new therapy dogs, Dolly and Miss Doc, during a beach volleyball match in April. The pups, which were added to the SHCS team of qualified professionals in the spring of 2023, are available for counseling sessions and on-campus events with a goal of engaging the university community with student health. The SHCS staff decided the campus needed this extra support after researching the positive impacts of dogs on college campuses. “Studies show that students have a lower heart rate and less anxiety when they are interacting with dogs,” said Shannon Deal, director of Student Health and Counseling Services. “We want students to have the option to be comforted by Dolly and Miss Doc after a hard day or week.” The dogs came from local breeders Clint (‘01) and Charity Riley (‘01), and are sponsored in part by Dr. Rodney “Doc” Thomsen (‘71), professor emeritus of agricultural economics. After graduation from UTM, Thomsen returned to teach as an agricultural economics faculty member from 1975 to 2002. He was the longtime director of UT Martin’s West Tennessee Agricultural Pavilion. After hearing about the need for therapy dogs at his alma mater, he purchased “Miss Doc” and is also helping fund the therapy program.

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