Story by Stephanie Hall | Contributing Writer
Photos by Elise Carter | Contributing Photographer
Wednesday, September 8 marks the first of a new monthly tradition: Mental Health Wednesdays. Students get to hang out and pet some adorable therapy animals. The pets were on Main Street in the John Bragg Media and Entertainment Building.
The four dogs were: Roger, Zoey, Judy, and Gunner. The one cat was Connelly, the only active volunteer cat for the Music City chapter of Love on a Leash.
The goal of Love on a Leash is to visit different locations and have the animals interact with people. They are a nonprofit organization focused entirely on therapy animals.
One of the dogs, Gunner, became a member in 2020. However, he’s been training for a long time.
“He is a three-year-old, miniature American Shepard,” said Katie Fleming of Love on a Leash. “Gunner has been registered since he was 8 months old. He’s an AKC champion and has 18 obedience titles. He’s been training since I got him off the airplane from Utah. He’s very laid back.”
It takes a lot of training for an animal to become a therapy pet.
“The most important thing to be a successful therapy dog is temperament. The rest can be trained. A lot of it’s just being exposed to people at a young age, getting accustomed to sights and sounds and smells. And then a willingness to want to do that. Some dogs are wonderful dogs, but they are a little bit shy. It depends on the dog,” Fleming said.
Despite these challenges, Fleming is a pro at this. She has been doing therapy dog work since 1992.
The dogs were very excited to see everyone.
“It’s wonderful to see so many people because last semester there would be four or five. Now we have got a full group, which is wonderful. The dogs love to interact, that’s why they come. It makes them feel good, it’s a stress release for most folks,” Fleming said.
The event grew a sizable crowd of students who had just as much fun as the therapy animals.
“I am a really big fan of dogs,” Lexi Blanchard, a student attending the event said. “I don’t really have pets with me right now, obviously being on campus and everything, so it’s just nice to have them around. They bring very good vibes.”
If you missed out on petting some cute animals and would like to, don’t worry! Love on a Leash will be visiting once a month, thanks to Lisa McCann from the college of Media and Entertainment.