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Nursing School Therapy Dog Pilot Program


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Phoenix Nursing College Campus Pilots a New Therapy Dog Program

While rewarding, being a full-time nursing student is demanding and can often be stressful, especially around exam time. We found a unique way to reduce stress and lower anxiety. Lucy, a two-year-old Irish Setter, is part of a therapy dog program we are testing out on the Phoenix campus.

So far, the students, faculty, and staff love having a therapy dog. Lucy visits classrooms during breaks and preceding exams, supporting Gen Ed and Core students and sometimes frazzled faculty! She can be brought into a counseling session with a distraught student and generally has an immediate calming effect on the student. Lucy also loves to hit the Student Commons to check out what’s for lunch in student backpacks.

Lucy’s person is Dr. Jennifer Bonilla, Executive Director of Academic Operations for the Phoenix campus of Arizona College of Nursing. Dr. Bonilla started the training process with Lucy when she was just eight weeks old. Lucy is a certificated therapy dog that is comfortable in riding elevators and on airplanes, she seldom barks, and she is very calm even if her mouth is grabbed or her tail is pulled.

Based on the outcomes of the pilot, a broader program launch may occur across Arizona College of Nursing. We will gather survey feedback from everyone on campus over the next three months to fully assess the pilot. So far, everyone loves Lucy!


Meet “Lucy Sage” – AKC Irish Setter, Certified Therapy Dog, ATD – AKA “Professor Pawsitive”

Stats – A lady never tells her age or her weight, so don’t ask.

How I Got My Name – What else do you call a red-head, except Lucy?

Counseling Techniques – Never require students to fill out any forms; limit yawns to twice per hour; sessions not limited to 15 minutes if my back is being scratched.

Favorite Subject – PSY 230 (taught me how to calculate odds in catching rabbits).

Favorite Student: Any with snacks in their backpacks

Favorite Movie Snack – Freeze-dried beef livers.

Maintaining My Red Locks – John Frieda Radiant Red Shampoo & Conditioner in a steamy shower.

Favorite K-9 – Any dog slower than me at catching rabbits.

How I “Keep My Cool”: Daytime naps complete with snoring; frequent belly rubs; no classes before 8 am, and don’t let road rage affect my day.