Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, has a new addition: Ernie, a 9-pound, certified service dog, "employed" full time by personal counseling. Ernie is a 1-year-old Affenpinscher and the only therapy dog within the Penn State system. Research has shown that there is great therapeutic benefit to animal companionship, including stress relief, lowered blood pressure and boosted spirits to students seeking counseling. Canine therapists like Ernie spark conversation, listen without judgment and always are willing to offer a cuddle or a kiss.
"Adding a canine therapist to the office is a progressive approach to making it more acceptable for students to seek help when they have mental and emotional health issues," said Sue Daley, director of personal counseling. Ernie spends his nights and weekends with Daley.
"Ernie brings a lot of smiles to a lot of faces," she said. "He is much welcomed on the laps of students who miss their own dogs and is visited often."
Having visited the office to seek out friendly kisses from Ernie can make it easier for students to return to personal counseling if they need its services. For more information about personal counseling, call 814-898-6504 or visit http://www.behrend.psu.edu/student/counseling online.