Pet therapy relieves orientation week stress

Spencer Thomas | Sports Editor | Sarah and Kobie Koblentz gather with students during pet therapy at Gumberg Library.

Spencer Thomas | Sports Editor

Aug. 25, 2022

Cuddly canines brought their love to Gumberg Library on Friday as part of freshman orientation week festivities. Students had the opportunity to meet and pet three trained therapy dogs.

The line stretched around the fifth floor of the library, with upward of 100 freshmen eager to see Kobie, Piper and Shep.

The opportunity to connect with their furry friends was clearly a mood booster for freshmen as they crept through their first week of college.

“For orientation, we always incorporate some sort of stress relievers,” said orientation chair coordinator Abby Hill. “It’s a new environment, and they’re getting used to being here.”

Pet therapy mixed things up, as students got to know the dogs.

Since it’s the first week many spend away from their families and homes, orientation week allows for constant interaction with new people.

The first pup to arrive was Kobie, a 3-year-old golden retriever. Students’ faces immediately lit up with smiles when they got to meet him and his owner, Sarah Koblentz. Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs belong to families, who have them trained for therapy.

Animal Friends, Inc., is the company that operates the pet therapy program, known as “Therapets.” According to them, a therapy animal is “any companion animal who has undergone training and certification to provide comfort and affectionate support to someone other than their owner.”

Any pet owner can contact the company, and once the pet makes it through their training, they are able to be present at colleges, hospitals, workplaces and wherever else anxiety may rise.

The Koblentz family adopted Kobie when he was a puppy, and he came at a crucial time, supporting them as the Covid-19 pandemic began.

“He did a wonderful thing for my two boys, just being there when they needed him,” Koblentz said.

She also added that she knew Kobie’s therapeutic side-gig was “something we wanted to do when we got him.”

Kobie is a rookie in the therapy game, having just started his training in June. Koblentz noted how he had the energy of a puppy, but it was the training that allowed him to remain under control in such a stimulating environment.

He seemed just as happy to meet the students as they were to meet him, with a smile across his face and a panting tongue. Besides the hugs and kisses, Kobie loved to back up onto students, enticing them into what Koblentz said were his favorite: butt scratches.

Students happily indulged him, laughing with Kobie and his self-described “mom.”

Among the students lucky enough to meet Kobie was Lucas Cook, who felt like the contact definitely helped relieve some of the move-in anxiety.

“Who doesn’t love therapy animals?” Cook said. “I already feel better.”

Many students get to know each other over conversations about their own pets, with the animals consisting of dogs, cats, bunnies and even a raccoon.

Perhaps the best indication of the event’s success could be seen on a before-and-after exercise. Upon entering the room, students were asked to rate their stress level from one to five by placing a sticker on the corresponding number of a chart. They were then asked to do the same thing after meeting with the dogs.

As the event came to a close, the graph demonstrated students entered with a minimum of four stress levels. No student exited with anything higher than a two. Despite being a small sample size, the atmosphere in the room was undeniably or… “paws”ative.

When scratching Kobie, one student remarked that it was the best day of her life.

Koblentz echoed a similar sentiment, saying that, “This is the best day ever for [Kobie], too.”