Harvard Therapy Dog Offers Stress Relief for Students And Staff

A staff member at the library interacts with Cooper
Countway Library of Medicine
A staff member at the library interacts with Cooper.

Another Member of the Library Staff

Countway Library of Medicine access services manager Ashley Sway has seen Cooper’s effect on students and faculty firsthand. The two could be considered coworkers — Sway says Cooper is basically another member of the staff.

“When I started this job, I wasn’t sure what it would be like having a dog at work two days a week, but it is a pretty amazing experience," Sway says. "Sometimes he just lays on the couch we have and stays out of the way, but sometimes he likes to sit right in the heart of it all. Having a furry friend around behind the circulation desk makes us all smile. Other staff throughout the library also love stopping by and saying hello to him. There are a few regulars that stop by every time Cooper is here.”

Patrons now expect Cooper to be present on Tuesdays and Thursdsays, his two assigned weekdays, as he’s become an established member of the library. How in-demand Cooper’s skills are varies, but any patron interested in his services is welcome to go behind the circulation desk and hang out with him.

“Cooper is a pretty chill dog. If a patron just wants to sit and pet him, then he is all for that. If they pick up one of his toys and attempt to engage him with it, then he will certainly play. He seems happy to interact in whatever way the patron wants to interact with him without being overly hyper or excited,” Sway says.

Sway says that Cooper's presence behind the desk helps break down barriers between students and staff. She adds that it’s not only uplifting to see people interact with the dog but to see what they’re like when they walk away after spending time with him.

Based on their experiences with Cooper, both Sway and Dr. Francisco think other schools should offer therapy dog services year round. Dr. Francisco says that other schools have contacted her and her husband about setting up programs at other campuses across the country.

“I wasn’t sure what it would be like to work at a place with an animal around on a regular basis, but I have found it very rewarding,” Sway says.

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