Huggable dogs relieve stress


Alexandra Riva

Terry Thoresen, owner of cavapoo Bella, sits with MESA Director Nichole Trager. Thoresen is a member of Tony LaRussa’s ARF Pet Hug pack.

The Los Medanos College MESA center welcomed two furry friends to serve as a distraction to students studying for midterms this past Monday. LMC had dogs from Tony La Russa’s ARF Pet Hug Pack come to the library before, but this is the first time the MESA center has held the event.

“It’s good for general areas. In here, there’s a lot lounge areas and in the library there is a lot of open space,” said Nicole Trager, the MESA program director.

The dogs that visited students were accompanied by their owners Kathy Thill and Terry Thoresen. Thill brought a 7-year-old Belgian shepard named Bella and Thoresen was accompanied by a 7-year-old cavapoo, also named Bella. Both dogs have been with their owners since they were puppies and have a strong connection with them.

Special training and tests are required if an owner wants their dog to become a service animal. Being touched by unfamiliar people could potentially stress out the animals, but resisting the urge to bark, growl and bite at foreign hands is necessary if a dog is going to be around those who need their assistance. The dogs and their owners go to a lot of different facilities and help many people.

“We’re sent out to visit hospitals, libraries and schools during midterm times. It serves as a distraction. We also go to a lot of nursing and assisted living facilities. Memory care is a big one too,” said Thill, with Bella sitting calmly at her side.

Most students were thrilled to see the dogs in the MESA center and dropped whatever they were doing to spend time with them. One student, Andrew Donato, was partial to the cavapoo, but showed both dogs love.

“I have midterms coming up soon. I like this because it’s a good stress reliever at school,” said Donato.

Although mostly MESA students were at the event, all students were welcome to attend. In addition to Trager, other staff members dropped in to be a part of all the excitement. Christine Kromer, LMC’s Technical Services Librarian, walked around the MESA center handing out buttons that read, ‘I love therapy dogs at the LMC library’ to all in attendance.

“I think it’s fun. It’s one of my favorite events. Students love it. Faculty and staff love it. It’s good for stress relief and it makes everyone happy,” said Kromer about the therapy dog visits.