At O-Day, students may have seen Miller, a 5-year-old golden retriever, or Choa, a 7-year-old golden retriever and lab mix, on the concourse and wondered why they were there.
These dogs are loving and playful members of CAREing Paws, an organization that promotes awareness of the impact of therapy dogs.
The organization used to be exclusively for nursing school students as a way to help these students understand how animals can impact people’s lives.
However, Stuart Pope, nursing professor and advisor to the organization, opened the organization to everyone interested.
In 2016, the organization was brought back by students who wanted to reinvigorate people’s knowledge of how beneficial therapy dogs can be.
“Now, it’s a club getting people aware of what animals do for therapy and how animal-assisted therapy can help people in nursing homes, with people with mental illnesses and children in hospitals,” said Myles Mcatee, the organization’s current secretary.
Mcatee said the organization visits Arbor Springs with the dogs two days a week. Members will bring the dogs to the rehab center for residents who want to play and spend time with the dogs.
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The secretary believes that it relaxes the residents at Arbor Springs.
“A nursing home is kind of a sad place to see because the residents don’t get a lot of visitors because their siblings or kids are elsewhere,” Mcatee said. “So, whenever people see students from Auburn and the dogs, it brightens their day. That’s where the whole animal-assisted therapy comes in.”
CAREing Paws has a monthly meeting every first Monday of the month. Miller and Choa come to every meeting, and members are able to spend time with the dogs.
At these meetings, members discuss logistics and events that are coming up for the month.
Mcatee said anyone is welcome to join, and anyone can become an officer in the club.
“A lot of people think this is a nursing school requirement or that you have to be pre-vet to be in the club, but we want everyone,” Mcatee said.
He said he believes students should join so that they can see the impact of service dogs first hand at the different sites they visit.
“I think it’s whenever you go to the nursing home, that’s whenever you see the true impact these dogs have on people’s lives,” Mcatee said.
Mcatee also said that Auburn’s nursing school is the only nursing school that emphasizes animal-assisted therapy and teaches classes based on the effectiveness of this concept.
Any student can take the animal-assisted therapy class for two credit hours, and interested students can email Pope for more information.
The organization will also be at the Vet School during Wellness Week during the week of April 25.
“A lot of these residents had to give up their dogs, or they had dogs that passed away, so whenever you see the impact it has on the residents, it just changes your mind completely and makes you want to go out every single week,” Mcatee said.
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