Counseling Center adopts new dog to become Therapet


Photo credit: Katey Ladika

Brittany Mayer

August 2016 was an exciting month for the RMU Counseling Center because of an addition to their team, the puppy Violet.

Violet, a mix of the Shih Tzu and Yorkshire Terrier, is six months old. She is the newest, furriest member of the Counseling Center being trained to become a Therapet.

“There is a decent amount of research about how animals affect mental health and how you feel when you pet an animal, and how it brings heart rate down, and blood pressure down, and so on,” said Holly Harmon, director of the counseling center, “but really the thing that kicked us into wanting to get a full time pet for the Counseling Center was the response to the Therapets last year. It was astronomical.”

Harmon is the main caretaker of Violet who spent about a three months to get the puppy to bring to the Counseling Center. They decided to get her from a breeder and hire a trainer from the Three Rivers Dog Training to transform her into a Therapet.

“We got the idea to get Violet because whenever we brought in Therapets from Animal Friends they were a big hit and basically the main role of a Therapet is to provide comfort to students especially during stressful times,” said Tiffany Hartz, assistant director of the counseling center and a therapist, “(T)hey don’t necessarily have any duties but they do have to be trained so that they are not biting and jumping so they can be calm so students feel calm around them.”

“We wanted a small dog that has a really good temperament, playful, really good with humans and not very aggressive in any way…” said Harmon.

Along with the puppy, the Counseling Center is also going through ways to make mental illness less taboo. They have a group called THRIVE with eight student leaders who use word-of-mouth to let students know of the safe environment to get help.

“If someone is really struggling, we then encourage the THRIVE Leaders to bring them to the counseling center and connect them with us and I think we’ve had a lot of success with that,” said Hartz.

Violet is open to everyone who wants to see her. All students can walk in and play with the little dog. She is a fun addition to the Counseling Center who brings a lot of foot traffic.

“We purposely made it fluid so if there’s a student struggling she (Violet) is here. (Students) can just kind of come in and hold her and play with her,” said Harmon.

If students can not go see Violet, they can follow the Counseling Center on Twitter, @rmu_counseling, look at the hashtag #VioletOfTheDay to see her pictures or the Counseling Center’s website.