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Meet Mylie - a therapy dog at Loughborough College

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Posted by: JasmineThompson
Posted on: 29/06/2021

With a rising tide of referrals for mental health support in the wake of lockdowns and restrictions, Generation Next partner Loughborough College has accelerated plans to recruit a very important, four-legged member of staff.

Mylie the cockapoo may be a puppy at the moment, but her training has already begun and her gentle, calming impact felt on campus as the college’s first-ever therapy dog.

Her mission is simple – to help the college’s wellbeing team support student mental health on campus in several ways, which already includes helping some students overcome a fear of dogs!

Dannii Donovan, the college’s safeguarding and inclusion lead, is Mylie’s owner. She said: “There have been numerous research studies which show the benefits of therapy dogs in schools and we hope Mylie will become an integral part of our college community by supporting students experiencing mental health challenges.

“It is the first time Loughborough College has used a therapy pet as part of its student support offer and she has already made a difference to a student I’ve been working with.”

Mylie has already helped Level 3 Sports student Cara Gallop, 18. She said: “Any strategies to support the increasing number of young people who face mental health challenges is fantastic and, in Mylie, I think the College has taken a brilliant step in the right direction because therapy dogs offer a companionship that you may not be able to find in those around you.

“Encountering any form of mental illness is one of the most draining and exhausting experiences anyone can face, so my hope is that Mylie will help other students in their fight, as she helped me.

“She’s also so irresistible to people that she’s a great way of starting the conversation about mental health and I think we need to talk about it more openly.”

The mental health charity Young Minds said the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on the mental health of young people, with 67% of young people saying the pandemic will have a long-term negative effect on their mental health.

Heather Clarke, assistant principal and safeguarding lead at Loughborough College, said: “We pride ourselves on finding new and innovative ways to support our college community, especially when it comes to mental health and wellbeing. The evidence of the benefits of therapy dogs is overwhelming and we cannot wait to welcome Mylie to the wellbeing team and to see her working with students and staff.”

What are the benefits of therapy dogs?

  • Cognitive – companionship with a dog stimulates memory, problem-solving and game-playing
  • Social – a dog provides a positive mutual topic for discussion, encourages responsibility, wellbeing and focused interaction with others
  • Emotional – a school dog improves self-esteem, acceptance from others and lifts mood, often provoking laughter and fun. Dogs can also teach compassion and respect for other living things as well as relieving anxiety
  • Physical – interaction with a furry friend reduces blood pressure, provides tactile stimulation, assists with pain management, gives motivation to move, walk and stimulates the senses
  • Environmental – a dog in a college increases the sense of a ‘college family’ environment, with all of the above benefits continuing long after the college day is over.

 

Generation Next is a support network for young professionals aged between 18 and 35 based in the East Midlands. In line with its wellbeing month in June, the network ran an event about the positive power of nature and pets – welcoming an NTU animal science lecturer Dr Jacqueline Boyd – to discuss how our interactions with animals can be mutually beneficial and support our professional growth. To try out the network’s events programme, click here. 

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