The new face of student services: Dandy

By Maggie Devereux 
Online Managing Editor
Dandy, commonly known around Prospect’s halls as the golden retriever “drug dog”, first came to Prospect in 2003 as a request from Dean of Students Pat Tadaldi-Monti.
However last year as Dandy started to get older, her trainer, Glenn VadeBonCoeur, began bringing a younger golden retriever named Goldie along with him because Dandy’s age began to effect her job. Sniffing out substances no longer was a fun “game” for her, which is how the dogs’ jobs are usually described.

That meant Dandy was finally able to get some much needed relaxation time. But instead of retiring for good, she has just shifted career paths.
For a few years, counselor Dr. Lynn Thornton and Social Worker Doug Berg have been researching Pet Assisted Therapy. Pet assisted Therapy is the use of animals to calm down and lower heart rate in counseling sessions and in classrooms.
“Statistics have shown that just petting an animal, in this specific case petting a dog, help to lower your heart rate,” Thornton said.
Around the end of last year, Thornton and Berg decided to try using Dandy with Pet Assisted Therapy.
“The dog serves the function of helping the student calm down or to focus or to feel a little more comfortable,” Berg said. “Pets tend to be more of a nonjudgmental kind of a presence.”
Now Dandy is at Prospect either in the counseling office or in classrooms about once a week. Whenever VadeBonCoeur is at or near Prospect with Goldie, he drops Dandy off with Thornton or Berg for the day.
I have seen Dandy’s role in Pet Assisted Therapy firsthand. Last year when one of my friends passed away I went to see my counselor, Thornton, and when I walked into her office I saw Dandy curled up on the floor. I was very emotional at the time and petting Dandy gave me the chance to catch my breath so I could begin to talk about how I was feeling.
“When students come in sobbing, [the] calming effect [Dandy has] helps them get right to what’s bothering them,” Thornton said.
Dandy isn’t just seen around Student Services anymore though. Last year, Dandy was brought into a regular classroom just to measure the effect on the student’s heartbeats with and without her presence.
“Even if [they’re] not in distress, the students were just happier when [Dandy] was around,” Thornton said.
Thornton saw the student’s mood increase and they were able to pay attention better. Dandy has also been used in classrooms to help students with Attention Deficit Disorder this year. The student was able to concentrate more in class and had better behavior because of Dandy.
Berg has even brought in his own lab Lakin twice to also experiment with Pet Assisted Therapy.
While Berg and Thornton are still collecting data on the effects of Pet Assisted Therapy, they can already see major impacts from the counseling offices to the classroom.
“It does seem to definitely make a difference for some of the kids being able to feel more relaxed, to calm down quicker if they’re upset,” Berg said.