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Therapy Dogs, Fall In!

Posted on July 17, 2023 at 8:49 AM by Curt LaFond

Cadets from my local squadron arrived at encampment yesterday. Some of them are probably stressed-out by the exacting dormitory rules, tight enforcement of military customs and courtesies, and just the anxiety of being away from home and living in an unfamiliar environment. Were I an encampment commander, I know who could help them – therapy dogs.

Therapy dogs frequently visit locations with vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes, hospitals, and college campuses, providing anxious patients and students comfort. Scientists have found that access to therapy dogs can reduce students’ anxiety and improve their mood. Encampment students are prime candidates for therapy dog interventions.

Stress is a fact of life. It cannot be entirely removed. Better to develop in young people the skills for recognizing stress and managing it on their own through exercise, talking with friends and trusted adults, breathing exercises, and time with a pet. The encampment lesson on “Warrior Spirit” meshes well with an encounter with a therapy dog – it’s all about self-mastery of stress.

To find therapy dogs near you, a good place to start is the local hospital. Call the hospital’s community relations office. They’re likely to know therapy dog handlers in your area and can provide contact information. Plan to offer the handler a modest stipend in recognition of their time and effort.

Not everyone likes dogs, so if therapy dogs are available to visit the encampment, cadet interaction should be entirely voluntary. You might have the therapy dog waiting outside the dining hall after a meal. Yours truly would definitely shake hands with that good boy or girl. 

- Curt LaFond


My dog is a therapy dog, still in training however recently spent a week at NESA and a couple of days at the MO wing encampment. Never failed to bring a smile or raise a mood. She is a bernadoodle lab mix. Beautiful dog, beautiful temperament, loves people.
Beth Hamilton | 7/18/23 at 12:54 PM
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