Therapy dogs help students de-stress from school

Registered therapy dog, Duke, gets pet by students at Tail Waggin’ Wednesday on April 4 in the Central Library. Duke has been a therapy dog for about six years.

A typical day for Stephen Burn and his dog Max starts off with a half hour walk, going home to eat breakfast and planning where they will visit for the day.

Max has been Burn’s rescue dog and family pet since 2009. He is also a therapy dog.

Max was registered as a therapy dog in December 2010 and has been doing therapy work for eight years.

But Burn did not have to train Max as a therapy dog.

“We are super fortunate with him because when we rescued him, he knew all his commands,” Burn said. “This was his temperament.”

Max was a part of a nonprofit organization called Pet Partners for around seven years and has now been with a new organization called the Alliance of Therapy Dogs since December 2017.

He does therapy work at nursing homes, hospitals, elementary schools, the DFW International Airport and UTA.

Wednesday was Max’s 100th visit since 2012 to UTA’s Tail Waggin’ Wednesdays.

Tail Waggin’ Wednesdays is a place for students to spend quality time with therapy dogs to help relieve anxiety and stress.

“It is being hosted just to help students de-stress from normal stresses of school and anxiety,” said Kiriakis Newman, outreach and community specialist for user engagement and services.

She said the event has been hosted since 2012 and takes place the first Wednesday of every month and every day during finals week.

Burn said he thinks it’s beneficial for students to relieve anxiety and stress through pets, because they provide real unconditional love.

“It’s great meeting students that who are away from home and they are missing their family pets,” he said.

A normal week for the duo’s visiting schedule starts on Mondays at the nursing home, then Tuesdays at the hospital, Wednesdays at the nursing home and finally Thursdays at the airport.

Max is a very busy dog, but he loves it, Burn said.

“If we go too many days without visiting somewhere he starts getting antsy,” he said.

Burn said he even stopped playing golf and tennis because he prefers to be with his dog.

Psychology senior Conner Edmonds has attended Tail Waggin’ Wednesdays since her freshman year in 2014.

She said dogs provide a safe place for a lot of people who are going through tough situations and are stressed because of school.

She doesn’t have any dogs of her own and would love to rescue one, but she said she knows she is not in a stable position because having pets comes with a lot of responsibilities.

“It offers me a lot of comfort, so I’ve always enjoyed coming,” Edmonds said.  “I’ve always enjoyed playing with Max.”

Burn said he loves the work he gets to do with Max.

“I’ve never ever done anything more rewarding in my life,” he said. “All I do every day is make people smile.”


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