Emily Steis ‘25OD didn’t have any big plans for her birthday, except one: She wanted to spend some time with the therapy dogs that were visiting the University’s Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, campus April 29, 2022.
 
people petting a dog“I was super-excited when I saw the dogs were coming to campus. I decided that’s what I want to do on Friday. I didn’t care if I did anything else for my birthday,” said Steis, who turned 24 years old that day. “This is a really cool event.”
 
Although the pandemic has put a hold on the on-campus event for a few years, five dogs from Comfort Caring Canines (CCC) Therapy Dogs Inc., visited the Learning Resource Center (LRC), ostensibly to allow students, faculty and staff a chance to get up close and personal with the animals in an effort to relieve some stress and anxiety before finals week.
 
According to its website, CCC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a dedicated group of volunteers who share the love of their certified canine companions with others in their community. CCC dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and visits range from a simple exchange of smiles and wagging tails to obedience demonstrations and tricks.
 
Two of the volunteers, Susan and Ron Souder, brought their dogs, Sophie and Annie, who joined Opal, Molly and Lucy to make up the group of five therapy dogs lapping up all the attention from the students.
 
people petting a dog“We train them for obedience, so they have to obey — sit, stay, lay down. A lot of the evaluation from the Comfort Caring Canines and any other organization is the temperament of the dog,” said Susan Souder.
 
She added that trained therapy dogs have to be friendly and not easily startled by noises. Souder said Annie was almost two and half years old before she was trained as a therapy dog while Sophie was an early learner and was trained before she was two years old.
 
“People should be able to pet the dog and you have to make sure your dog is not going to snap or bite,” said Souder.
 
Samantha Tubolino ‘25OD made use of her time with the dogs as a stress reliever.

“For me, it releases some anxiety that I have. It also takes my mind off of everything else,” she said. “You come and see a dog who doesn’t have a lot of worries and it reminds you to take a breather, take a break and enjoy the little things.” Tubolino has a 13-year-old Jack Russell Terrier named Cody at her parents’ house who “I miss dearly” because she’s not allowed to have pets in her apartment. “So, coming here and seeing the dogs, it brightens everybody’s day,” she said.
 
According to CCC, preparing the dogs for therapy work increases their confidence and ability to appropriately interact with patients and children in a variety of settings. CCC has several training partners covering Philadelphia, Montgomery and Bucks counties. All of the group’s training partners use positive reinforcement training methods and offer a variety of classes including specialty classes for therapy dogs in addition to basic obedience.
 
Jessica Ammous ‘25OD was looking forward to spending some time with the therapy dogs for the entire week leading up to the event.
 
“This has made my whole day. I have a final Monday and it’s helping a lot. Seeing the dogs, they’re such cute creatures, it makes me happy to see them,” said Ammous. “My friends and I have been talking about it the whole week. We all stayed on campus today so we could see the dogs.”
 
As a show of gratitude to the animals and their volunteers, library technician Alison Wilk said some LRC work study students made personalized book markers.
people petting a dog