BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Virginia Tech welcomed its fourth therapy dog to campus, a 2-year-old black lab named Epcot.
However, these canines are more than just cute faces– staff counselor, Trent Davis, says they can play a big part in reducing stress levels in students.
“Student mental health is challenged throughout the country. I think all campuses are seeing an increase in demand for services, so I think a part of the way we help meet that demand is through our dogs, through feeling more connected,” said Davis.
The first therapy dog came to Virginia Tech’s campus back in 2013. Davis says he’s seen a dramatic increase in student connection since then.
“My saying is when people are happy and connected good things happen, they also in the therapeutic realm help reduce the stress levels of the individual,” said Davis.
He adds that he hopes the dogs encourage people to seek help if they are struggling with mental health.
“It reduces stigma for our student body around help-seeking for mental health, because these animals are cool, and therapy is not always thought of as cool, but we want to get there,” said Davis.
Stephanie Miller says she first saw the impact the animals can have at a mental health wellness event during her freshmen year.
“It’s okay to make mistakes and be in college and people presented different art forms and stuff and the dogs were there and I just fell in love with them,” said Miller.
Now a Senior–Miller says she still makes sure to come to campus to see her favorite therapy dogs.
“Good days or bad days it’s a way I take the time to go see the dogs, and I’ve also made a few friends that are office hour regulars,” said Miller.
For a lot of students, the dogs have been an important part of their college years– and they say they’re excited to welcome Epcot to the Hokie family.
“Getting access to these, it’s really special,” said Miller.
Another cool part of this program is that the VT vet school actually gets to work closely with these dogs to both educate students and keep these dogs healthy so they can keep students happy.
If you’d like to meet Epcot or visit the other therapy dogs– you can stop by the Thomas E. Cook counseling center in Blacksburg.