Posted on December 4, 2012 by Tia Lalani

Sophie and Hutch visited Augustana Library this morning to help studying students manage their stress.

First-year Augustana student Elizabeth Motty meets Sophie. Therapy? Maybe. Delight? Definitely.

As part of University Wellness Services’ Unwind Your Mind program, the University of Alberta’s Augustana Library invited Mark Fulton to visit with two friends.

10-year-old Sophie is a registered therapy dog who visits the Bethany Group’s Viewpoint Facility for an hour every week. She is calm and friendly, pushing her face into students’ delighted hands and leaning up against them as they kneel down to pet her.

By contrast, 6-month-old Hutch is a bundle of energy. He climbs students to get at their faces, which he licks exuberantly as they laugh or stretch out of his reach. Hutch is Mark’s first foster puppy, and is intended to become a service dog – either guide, wheelchair assist or autism companion animal. He is part of the Dogs With Wings program.

Physiotherapy student Kelsey Andersen takes a moment away from her books to rub Hutch’s soft belly. Both of them seem to benefit!

“Besides the obvious enjoyment people get from spending time with the animals,” Mark explains, “there are a number of benefits to pet therapy. Studies show physiological benefits such as lowered blood pressure and pulse. There’s relaxation and dopamine release. Many health care facilities have resident pets for the same reasons.”

Mark Fulton introduces Hutch to several staff members who stop by to say hello.

As for Hutch, part of his training is to socialize him to different places, people and dogs so that he has plenty of experiences to draw on as a companion animal. When he’s wearing his vest, people are advised not to approach him – but for the therapy visit, he is at his most friendly!

Several students, bent over laptops or stacks of books, look up with a smile as the dogs tour the library. Many stop for a moment to pet the soft, golden fur and share stories of their own dogs at home. The smiles linger as they turn back to their books.

Mission accomplished, Sophie and Hutch.


When Hutch is wearing his Dogs With Wings training vest, he’s working.

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