Students often come into school counselor Emily Vaughn’s office to get a lemon drop, and end up staying to play with her one year old puppy, Mitzidoodle the labradoodle, or Mitzi for short. Sure, you might think it is a little weird that Mitzi is the only dog on campus, but haven’t you wondered why you somehow forget everything on your mind after seeing that adorable little puppy?
According to Vaughn, having a pet nearby can change the atmosphere of a room and even cheer people up since people seem to automatically bond with dogs. Mitzi allows students to relax and just enjoy the company of a puppy.
“The interaction of people with dogs is very interesting,” said Vaughn. “ It’s a wonderful way to connect with people.”
After Vaughn told me how Mitzi, however small she is, can take up the entire bed at night, I chimed in talking about my own dog and some of his little quirks. Salvador, like Salvador Dali, can jump up to the height of a full-grown person, and he is only a puppy. To that, Vaughn smiled and said that “everyone has a dog story”.
According to research conducted at the New York City Hospital, heart attack patients can add a few years onto their lives by taking care of pets. An ill person can benefit no matter what type of animal it is, just as long as the owner finds the pet to be comforting.
Simply owning any type of animal reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and can even decrease marital problems as well, according to the studies at New York City Hospital, because caring for something else can benefit you.
Bringing in Mitzi did not start out as something therapeutic, but after seeing the students’ and teachers’ reactions to her, Vaughn decided to play the “take your dog to work day” card more often.
Our own Marlborough student, Jaci’10 can relate to Vaughn. Jaci and her family have been training aid dogs for five years. They take puppies at least 18 months old and train them for four to six months, teaching them how to cross busy streets and how to respond to certain commands such as “right” and “left.” She has had first-hand experience seeing how having a pet can affect a person’s individual disposition. According to Jaci, many of the graduates of the aid dog program have gained back their independence, without having to rely on help from other people. These trained pets are not only beneficial to the recovery process, but they also provide comfort to the person receiving help.
Like Jaci, Vaughn has noticed these positive effects, such as an instantly happier personality and the ability to relax more, on people, and has also seen how dogs are a nice segue into difficult conversations for the girls here. As the school counselor, Vaughn looks for ways to help students deal with stressful situations, and has seen that having Mitzi around helps students. Vaughn also sees how Mitzi reacts in her private sessions. Somehow she knows when a client’s time is up.
“She gives them a nice goodbye, but it’s all about her, of course,” said Vaughn.