Paging Dakota! School of Nursing Welcomes Emotional Support Dog to Campus
When nursing students stop by to meet Dakota, the school’s newest “staff member,” during her office hours, they’re likely to get more tail wags and puppy kisses than discussions on which nursing courses to take.
But, that’s exactly what Dakota is there for, as the School of Nursing’s new “Emotional Support Dog.”
Carole Pomarico, MSN, RN, MA, assistant professor of nursing and director of the second degree and RN to BSN program (AKA Dakota’s person), adopted Dakota eight months ago and knew almost right away that this special dog could bring a different kind of support to their nursing students.
Dr. Meredith Kazer, dean of the School of Nursing, said, “I can’t tell you what a comfort Dakota was to me after the recent loss of my own dear dog Lucy. She is such a sweetie and I’m thrilled to know that she will provide continuing comfort and joy to our students and the entire University community.”
Emotional support dogs help people by providing comfort during stressful times in their lives. Fairfield University has brought dogs on campus in past years during exam times for this reason, which was wildly successful with students.
Studies have shown that spending a few minutes with a friendly critter is beneficial. Professor Pomarico said, “I had been reading about dogs being on campuses to help alleviate stress in students, especially during exam time,” she said. “There is evidence that a dog’s presence reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and brings a smile to your face. This is so true of Dakota. She smiles at you and you have to smile back. You can’t help it.”
Professor Pomarico knew when she first adopted Dakota that she was special. “She immediately bonded to me and was so sweet, affectionate, calm and smart. It took very little to train her,” she said.
Over the summer, Professor Pomarico decided to see how Dakota would react to spending time with students in the School of Nursing. She brought Dakota to a nursing class that was held in July and Dakota responded like a seasoned veteran.
“Dakota walked into the room, quietly wagging her tail and went up the rows of students stopping to greet each one. She then quietly came back to me sat down and said goodbye to the students as they left the classroom. I thought to myself, ‘I have to see if I can bring her into the School of Nursing to provide comfort to the busy students.’”
Professor Pomarico registered Dakota to be an “Emotional Support Dog” through the U.S. Dog Registry. Following Dakota’s certification, she (Professor Pomarico, not Dakota) met with Todd Pelazza, director of public safety, for approval of her presence at the School of Nursing.
This fall will be Dakota’s trial run at the School of Nursing. Her office – a doggie bed under Professor Pomarico’s desk – is located in SON 111. Her office hours for September will be Tuesdays 2:30-5:00 and Thursday 2:30-5:30 and will be updated each month.
“Nursing students can stop by and say hello and have a warm and fuzzy greeting from Dakota,” Professor Pomarico said. If her trial run goes well, Dakota (with Professor Pomarico’s help) will begin training her for the designation of “Therapy Dog” Once that training is complete, Dakota will be able to attend Fairfield University health fairs and other events on campus to spend time with other Fairfield students.
Faculty, staff, and students at the School of Nursing are excited to welcome their newest community member. Professor Pomarico said, “I’ve heard the phrase, ‘Who rescued who?’ and I would say that I rescued Dakota from a kill shelter in Georgia and she is here to rescue us from the stress that comes from busy schedules, exams and trying to balance everything.”
Top photo: Dakota greets student Johane Samedy, RN in the classroom. Middle right: Dakota helps Professor Pomarico give prospective student Rosemary McMahon a taste of Fairfield's School of Nursing. Bottom left: Meet Dakota, the School of Nursing's new Emotional Comfort Dog.
Watch a video report from News8 about Dakota