Meet therapy dogs and learn about animal-assisted therapy

Dr. Claire Peel (left) introduces her certified therapy dog,
Luke, to UNTHSC employees during a campus event. Every
Sunday, the cocker spaniel visits Fort Worth assisted-living
communities to brighten the mood of depressed or
lonely residents.

Physician Assistant student Ana Maria Chaidez was stressing out. An exam was imminent, and her confidante and friend was absent.

That friend, her Blue Heeler dog, Wyatt, was unavailable.

In need of canine companionship, "I was freaking out," Chaidez said. "Wyatt was at my parents’, and I needed a dog to help me be calm."

So she dropped in at last spring’s "Paws at Lewis Library" event to interact with some so-called therapy dogs.

"When you see that wagging tail, that smile and those big eyes, you just feel better," she said.

On the UNTHSC campus, students and professionals in every discipline have an opportunity to take a break and visit with certified therapy dogs in the library several times annually.     

"Paws at Lewis Library" was established in 2013 to provide a relaxing experience between study sessions and meetings for UNTHSC students, faculty and staff and to introduce students and practitioners to ways of incorporating therapy dogs into their own practice.

Therapy dogs’ visits to the UNT Health Science Center campus are highly popular. In a survey after last spring’s event at the Lewis Library, the majority of 400 participants gave it the top rating.

Chaidez, who did well on her exam following her therapy dog experience, is sold on the idea. She and her husband have decided to train Wyatt to be a therapy dog.

Once used only as guides for the blind, assistive animals now help humans in many additional situations: victims of sexual assault, domestic abuse and other violent crimes; anxious students on the autism/Asperger’s spectrum; chronic pain sufferers; "audiences" for children learning to read; and survivors of post-traumatic stress syndrome, to name a few. (About 10,000 military veterans have psychiatric-service dogs.)

At the same time, libraries’ mission of service and education make them the ideal home for programs introducing animal-assisted therapy (AAT) to the community.

Paws at Lewis Library
Thursday, Nov. 20
955 Montgomery St., Fort Worth, TX 76107

  • Speaker: Dr. Claire Peel, Vice Provost and Dean of the School of Health Professions
    Topic: Creating Solutions for a Healthier Community: Using Animal-Assisted Therapy to Enhance Health

    Noon-12:30 p.m.
    LIB 448 (Center for Innovative Learning, fourth floor)

  • Therapy dogs visit
    12:45 to 2 p.m.
    4 to 6 p.m.
    Lewis Library Collaborative Learning Commons (third Floor)

Both events free to the public

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