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The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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Furry Friends Frequent Residence Halls

Chloe+visits+students+in+the+freshman+residence+halls.
Baylee Parsons
Chloe visits students in the freshman residence halls.

A former West Virginia Hot Dog Festival Wiener Dog Race champion now spends her days comforting students on campus.

A therapy dog for the new MU Paws in the Halls program, 12-year-old dachshund Chloe could not wait to get to work for her second week on the job, her owner said. 

“She was pulling me down the sidewalk to get here today,” Mary Thompson said. “I think she already knew where she was going, and she was pretty excited about it.”

Paws in the Halls will allow Chloe, along with three other therapy dogs, to visit the residence halls each week to bring students comfort in their everyday life.

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“The students seem very grateful that she’s there; it gives them a little bit of stress relief,” Thompson said. “They just are very enthusiastic about getting to see her and spend some time with her.”

This enthusiasm is exactly what Mistie Bibbee, the director of Housing and Residence Life, had in mind when she started the program.

“For me, it’s all about the student experience with it,” Bibbee said. “I want the students to have fun.”

As the handler of Lily, the therapy dog for the Commons and Buskirk halls, Bibbee said she enjoys the informal interactions that “paw-ffice” hours allow her to have with students.

Lily poses before visiting students. (Baylee Parsons)

“It’s a great connector,” Bibbee said, “and, so, that’s one of the things I enjoy. I’m not ‘Mistie, director of housing,’ I’m ‘Mistie with Lily.’” 

Bibbee took steps to implement the program after finishing her doctoral dissertation, which focused on the utilization of therapy dogs on a college campus.

With the help of six students, Bibbee conducted a month-long study during which the students spent 30 minutes per week with a therapy dog in order to examine the effects of this on individual stress and connection to the university.

With the results showing that students were more likely to attend events and engage on campus when therapy dogs were present, Bibbee began looking for volunteers to regularly visit the residence halls.

While some volunteers, like Bibbee and Thompson, are staff members of the university, others are community members. All of the dog handlers, Bibbee said, participate in the program “out of the goodness of their hearts.”

The dogs chosen for Paws in the Halls – Chloe, Lily, Isabella and Howie – are all members of the MU Paws program. In order to join this program, the dogs have to have completed their therapy dog certification, during which they are evaluated on their interactions with different people.

“When Chloe got certified, we did a prep class,” Thompson said. “They take you around the different hospital equipment you may encounter, different situations, and, then, she had three supervised visits to nursing homes and hospitals.”

A seasoned therapy dog, Chloe has been actively assisting others for eight years, Thompson said.

Bibbee hopes for Chloe and the gang to continue their service in the coming semesters.

After recalling a lack of visibility for the dogs last semester, Bibbee said, 

“This semester, we’re getting them back out there, and, so, our hope is to continue to grow and build the program.” 

Students can find Chloe in the First Year Residence Halls from 11 a.m.-noon on Wednesdays, Lily in Gibson Hall from 1-1:45 p.m. and Buskirk Hall from 2-2:45 p.m. on Tuesdays and Isabella in Holderby Hall from 10-11 a.m. on Fridays. 

Howie can be found in Twin Towers from noon-1 p.m. or in the Wellness Center from 1-2 p.m. on Fridays.

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