Nothing relieves anxiety like puppy love.Sponsored by Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee, or HABIT, this Wednesday marked UT's first official Canine Comfort Day.
Taking place in the Gary Purcell Reading Room located in the Communications building, this event began the year-long schedule for having dogs regularly on UT's campus.
Bringing animals on campus is certainly not unprecedented, following the tradition of providing dogs for finals week, and more recently Welcome Week.
Though they belong to UT faculty, these dogs are trained to work with the public. Donna Silvey, communications specialist for the College of Communication and Information, has been an active member of HABIT for five years with her dog Boudreaux – one of the three primary volunteer dogs.
"What's great about this program is that, working with HABIT, the dogs are already assessed and the rules are already outlined so all that needs to be done is applying it to the university," Silvey said.
As a community outreach program promoting human and animal relationships as a form of therapy, HABIT involves many students in the UT College of Veterinary Medicine. However, it was not until Silvey met Ed Cortez, Ph.D, director of the School of Information Sciences, that HABIT started to gain real traction on campus. Dr. Cortez' labradoodle, Jazz, was present on Wednesday, and will continue to make appearances throughout the year.
"These events have kind of steam-rolled into more occasions where HABIT dogs have been incorporated into campus events, until Dr. Cortez met with HABIT and said, 'We need to start staffing this,'" Silvey said.This will be the first year that dogs can be found on campus consistently. Meaning the volunteer dogs are here to stay.
"I have an apartment off of complex," Andelyn Barclay, senior in journalism and electronic media, said. "We are allowed to have dogs but it's an extra charge. So, it would be more beneficial to come here and play for free than have to pay for it. It's really interesting to know about this program, and I'm glad that I found out about it."
With such passionate support, Silvey and Cortez hope the event at UT will expand, with dogs serving as a source of healing for the Knoxville community as a whole."More than de-stressing, we want to bring a little bit of home to campus," Silvey said.
"The thing that probably is a little bit unique here is that the administration really does care about the students as well as their faculty and staff. So that's why they have allowed us to do this, I mean, why not?"
The next Canine Comfort Day is scheduled for Sept. 18, in room 434 of the Communications and University Extension building. For more information about the dogs participating in Canine Comfort Day and a laid out schedule, flyers are located outside room 434, and for more information about HABIT, click here.