Therapy dogs lend a helping paw


Yoga class participants reach out to greet Sydni, a 1-year-old golden retriever therapy dog, during a visit to a yoga class in State Gym Wednesday afternoon. Photos by Christopher Gannon.

Four years ago, Zosia joined the ISU police department as a certified therapy dog, but it didn't take long to realize the dog's responsibilities were going to outgrow her business card in a hurry. Yes, Zosia has a card with her email address and a schedule that keeps her paws on campus pavement most days.


To schedule the therapy dogs to come to a department or unit, use the ISU Safe app or email Hauser asks for a couple weeks' notice, when possible.

"When we started, I really thought it would be about dealing with crisis calls and going out when someone is in crisis," mental health advocate supervisor Kinsey Hauser said. "Almost immediately it turned into so much more, which is fun to see."

Zosia, who celebrated her 12th birthday this week, is one of three golden retriever therapy dogs with the department. Hauser owns Zosia and 1-year-old Sydni, who is in the process of becoming a certified therapy dog. Zeb, Zosia's grandson owned by Hauser's brother, also helps on campus. The dogs assist at freshman orientation, visit staff at Mary Greeley Medical Center, go to classes on campus to help conduct mental health presentations and are often available to students when they seek out the police department for resources.

"The dogs are a good way to get people into the office, and when we tell them that there are dogs available to them, we typically find that people are more open to that," Hauser said.

Hauser and mental health advocate April Ranck speak to students, faculty and staff on mental health and well-being, identifying signs and symptoms of mental illnesses and conduct a mental health first aid course.

Hauser always is looking for ways to increase the dogs' impact by interacting with students, faculty and staff walking on campus. The dogs also take part in Barks at Parks -- the activity during prep week each semester when community members bring their dogs to Parks Library to help students relax -- but their responsibilities go much further. This week, Zosia and Sydni took part in their first dog yoga special session at recreation services to help students de-stress ahead of the midterm. On March 31 (10-11 a.m.), the dogs will be at Curtiss Hall for "Woofs and Wellness" to hand out resource cards and stuffed replicas of Zosia.

Meeting time

With the launch of the ISU Safe app in February, requesting the therapy dogs is just a click away. Users can send an email by clicking on "Therapy Dogs" under the ISU police menu. Hauser said requests have begun to come in. Departments and units also can request the dogs for a meeting to de-stress or to learn more about mental health options.

"Anyone affiliated with Iowa State can request the dogs," Hauser said. "The weekly meetings that departments have is a great time to have us in and provides a nice break with the dogs. People's faces just light up when they see the dogs."

And don't expect the birthday girl to slow down anytime soon.

"Zosia gets really mad when I don't take her to work," Hauser said. "She will stand at the back door and bark at me. She loves coming to work."



Sydni, a golden retriever therapy dog, joins Audrey McMillan to strike her own pose during a therapy dog visit to a yoga class in State Gym Wednesday afternoon.


Veronica Armstrong (left) and Regina Castejon are greeted by Sydni during a therapy dog visit to one of recreation services' yoga classes in State Gym.