Barnes Center Breakdown: Puppies and more therapy options

Barnes Center Breakdown: Puppies, more therapy

Students can take advantage of a daily opportunity to pet therapy dogs, mindfulness classes, and the MindSpa.
Published: October 10, 2019
Shiner (left) and Westley visit with SU students at the Barnes Center at the Arch.
Shiner (left) and Westley are two of the therapy dogs available for students to visit at the Barnes Center at the Arch.

If you walk past the Walters Pet Therapy Room in the Barnes Center at The Arch on a weekday, you’ll see a number of smiling human faces — and a pair of friendly furry ones. Two therapy dogs are now on duty, awaiting pets from Syracuse University students, faculty and staff. Therapy dogs, which were previously a staple of high stress midterms and finals weeks, are now available for students to visit, pet and play with Monday through Friday. Pet therapy is one of many new features at the Barnes Center to promote mindfulness and mental health on campus. 

Westley, a black Labrador, was raised to be a seeing eye dog through Guiding Eyes for the Blind. After working as a guide dog for a few months, he “decided he didn’t actually want to work,” said his owner Shannon Doubet. She’s raised Westley since he was a puppy, so once he decided he didn’t want to be a guide dog, Doubet adopted him back. Since Westley loves people so much, she decided to register him as a therapy dog.

Westley visits SU on the first and third Wednesdays of every month from 5:30-7 p.m. Doubet thinks the addition of regular pet therapy sessions are great for the mental well-being of SU students. 

“I think in any situation, dogs make people calmer, more relaxed and giggly,” she says. “It’s great that campus is giving students more opportunities to relieve stress and make them happy.”

Andrew Farrow, another therapy dog owner, believes that regular access to therapy dogs can help students who grew up with dogs feel a little less homesick. Farrow owns Shiner, an Australian shepherd cattle dog mix, who visits the Barnes Center every Wednesday evening.

“Many people who come through have dogs at home and can’t see their dogs for months, so knowing you can come sit and pet a dog and recreate that sense of home is so beneficial,” Farrow said.

Both Doubet and Farrow also believe having therapy dogs regularly available can help reduce students’ anxiety. 

“There’s no pressure in interacting with a dog like there is when making human friends,” Farrow says. “If you’re feeling down or anxious, Shiner doesn’t care. He’s there to sniff you and be pet.” 

Doubet agrees. “Dogs make everything better,” she says. “They don’t judge. They love you no matter what.”

SU sophomores Emma McSherry and Emily Dash ahave already taken advantage of the available pet therapy. Dash and McSherry thought that spending some quality time with therapy dogs could help relieve some stress caused by their classes and impending midterms.

Both left Walters Pet Therapy Room with smiles on their faces.

If you’re interested in relieving stress with some dogs, head to the Walters Pet Therapy Room in the Barnes Center at the following times:

•      Monday: 2:30 – 4pm

•      Tuesday: 6 – 7:30pm

•      Wednesday: 5:30 – 7pm

•      Thursday 11:30am – 1pm

•      Friday: 1 – 2:30pm (Friday hours only apply to the first and third Fridays of the month.)

You’re also only allowed to spend about 15-20 minutes with the dogs before you’re asked to leave to make room for other students, so plan your puppy-petting accordingly.

More mindfulness methods

The Barnes Center offers various other resources to help the mental health of students and staff. If you need some time to relax in private, you can book half an hour in one of three rooms at the Crowley Family MindSpa. Each MindSpa room is filled with relaxation tools such as a light therapy box, biofeedback tools, and toys meant to help you de-stress, according to the Barnes Center’s website. 

The center also offers a number of meditation and yoga classes meant to promote mental wellness and mindfulness. Campus community members are free to use the Meditation Room during open hours or book the room for a class or group. The center also offers drop-in yoga classes to students, faculty and staff as well as tools to help them practice on their own. Individual and group reservations, class information and event schedules can all be found in the Wellness Portal.

This year the Barnes Center is also offering programs as part of the Soul Series, which are free and intended to “inspire students through meaningful conversation, building stronger connections and finding a greater sense of purpose,” according to the center’s website. 

Two main programs included in the series are SoulScape and SoulTalk. SoulScape is an overnight retreat offered five times throughout the school year, with sessions focusing on purpose, gratitude and vulnerability. SoulTalk is a gathering held every Thursday night from 7 – 8 p.m. in the Meditation Room that “surrounds life’s big questions, such as purpose, love and connection,” according to the website.

SU has also partnered with Sanvello, a mobile app for stress, anxiety and depression management. Students, faculty and staff can download the app and use their email address to access premium content and daily tools to help manage mental health.