Therapy Dog Helps Students Unwind During Midterms

Midterms with MooseMidterms are in full swing at Western Illinois University. With exams and papers piling up, students are stressed. Studies have shown that interacting with animals can help to reduce stress. This week, a furry face came to libraries across campus to help do just that for WIU students.

Moose is a three-year-old Australian Cattle, Schnauzer dog mix. He is a certified therapy dog. His owner, WIU grad student Katy Ellenich, got him when he was just a four-week-old puppy.

“I thought he was going to be my pet,” she said. “Just to go running and do fun stuff.”

As Moose began to grow, however, she said she noticed something unique about him.

He was sympathetic,” she said. “He cares, and I was like, well, it’s not very often you find a dog who cares like that.”

Ellenich wanted to share Moose’s compassion with other people, so she decided to begin the process of training him to become a certified therapy animal. He went through different obedience classes to learn manners and tricks. Then, she found an organization to certify him through.

When Ellenich began her graduate school program at WIU this past fall, she was surprised there were no therapy dogs in the libraries during finals week — something she had experienced during her undergrad. She sent a few emails, and plans were made to have Moose in the libraries during midterms this spring.

He made his first debuts on March 7 on campus, and Ellenich said he was a hit.

“[Students] come in, and you can see them light up, where that midterms-glaze goes over everyone’s eyes otherwise.”

One student, freshman Kaelin Lopriore, said coming to visit Moose was a nice way to avoid the midterms madness for a little while.

“Being able to pet an animal and just kind of not think about schoolwork or anything and just have fun and play with a dog is really relaxing, and it does help a lot,” Lopriore said.

Ellenich said she loves seeing Moose bring smiles to students’ faces, but above all, he’s changed her life, for the better.

“You come home every day, and it doesn’t matter what’s gone on, he’s happy to see you,” she said. “He’s so much part of who I am now. We take care of each other, I guess.”

Watch the story that aired on NEWS3 “Live at 4” by clicking here.