The Healing Power of Pet Therapy

Katelyn Gehling

Pet therapy is a bustling event for students at the College of St. Scholastica. Students from all across campus come to pet and give some love to Spirit, the pet therapy dog at St. Scholastica. Donna Kirk, instructor of mathematics, is the proud owner of Spirit. Spirit is 170 pounds of happiness and loves when she works with students. Spirit adores all the attention she receives from the line of students that come to pet her.

Pet therapy at St. Scholastica was started by Julie Zaruba Fountaine who is a wellness coordinator through WellU. According to Kirk, pet therapy was started at St. Scholastica because of the quality research that shows that students interacting with a pet is healthy for both the student and the animal. She said the research shows that petting an animal leads to better posture, breathing, reduced blood pressure, and a release of the “happy” hormones. Kirk enjoys bringing her dog Spirit to campus because she is able to meet students she otherwise would never meet through her classes. She loves connecting with the student community.

She says bringing Spirit to campus for people to pet is, “The best way I can live out and feel Benedictine value.”

All students are able to attend pet therapy. Pet therapy is held once a month, usually the second Tuesday of the month from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the conference rooms by Einstein’s Bagels in the Science Building. Students are able to pet Spirit and meet new people, all while getting the positive physical and psychological effects from being with an animal.