By Kassidy Weemhoff | Life and Times Co-Editor
Fluffy, happy and always excited to see you, the Counseling Center's newest therapy method has a visible effect on students and members of the Grant County community.
Judd the Therapy Dog and handler Shari Wallace started coming to Taylor in March of 2018, and have made weekly visits to campus to assist students in a plethora of ways. Whether struggling with grief, ailments, mental illness or just missing their dogs back home, students have found a source of comfort and peace in Judd's time on campus.
In fall of 2017, Director of the Counseling Center Caroline Poland began looking for a therapy dog in the area. She knew the benefit a therapy dog could have on the student body, and when a friend told her of Judd's service at a local funeral home, she reached out. Since the spring, Poland has seen a noticeable impact in the lives of students.
"It's great to see people break out in a smile, call his name, or run towards him when they see him; students really care deeply about him, which is great," Poland said. "We want students to see him as a resource and something that can aid in their mental health."
Wallace has also seen the golden retriever's presence effectively assist students by sensing their emotional needs and tailoring each specific interaction to make the student most comfortable. According to Wallace, Judd knows the way to approach the student and how to position himself to fit their needs.
Freshman Kaylee Smarrella first saw Judd at the Counseling Center booth at the club fair during Welcome Weekend, and now time with him is in her schedule every week.
"I have severe chronic migraines and chronic daily headaches so I'm in pain all the time, and it's just so much better to be in pain with a dog," Smarella said. "And I miss my dog at home.… (Time with Judd) is calming and something to look forward to."
Smarella's story is just one of many who have been impacted by their time with Judd, and Poland encourages other students to see him as a therapy resource. She said spending time with Judd can help regulate a student's nervous system, decrease stress hormones or give space for experiencing emotions.
Not only does Judd help students, but also the greater Grant County community. He and his handler are full time employees of Armes-Hunt Funeral Home where Judd acts as the grief therapy dog. This means that he comforts people who have lost loved ones, relieves stress, distracts from negative emotions, helps to process and brings a calming presence to an otherwise very difficult situation.
The dynamic duo make a point to visit assisted living communities, hospitals and other schools on their time off. Wallace describes him as a beautiful dog that provides unconditional love, compassion and understanding that is very effective for those struggling or needing a furry friend.
Judd was trained to be a therapy dog from only a few weeks old, and has been thriving in his job for almost four years. Wallace said that Judd thoroughly enjoys his work and that, in fact, he gets bored when not working. Judd is eager to interact with people and provide his ever-friendly services to all who he encounters. According to Wallace, Judd is all one could ask for in a perfect therapy dog.
You can visit Judd every Tuesday from 2-4 p.m., and follow his Facebook page to see what he is up to in the community (or just to enjoy cute pictures of him). Poland reminds students that Judd is a free service and eager to meet students, "So why not visit him?"