by CAMERON WILBURN '23
Have you had the chance to meet SUA’s newest member of the community, Angelo? Our sweet new puppy is a Golden Labradoodle who is only six months old. He is available to all students at Saint Ursula to brighten their day and spread his positivity!
I interviewed Mrs. Roman from counseling to get her opinion on why Angelo is a great asset to our Saint Ursula community. I also interviewed Angelo’s primary care taker, Ms. Balz, to get insight to his daily life!
How did Saint Ursula come to the conclusion that we were to be getting a therapy animal?
I think that this has actually been in a lot of people’s minds for a lot of years. The pieces of it all came together last year. Last year, we found out that we had a funding source. Once that was secured, they started the process. Basically, we had to wait until the right dog was born. They have specific breeders who breed dogs that are typically good therapy dogs, and these same breeders also breed service dogs. The trainer picks out the dogs that have temperaments that are going to be great therapy dogs. So this process has been in the making for years.
How will Angelo impact the counseling department as a whole?
Angelo is one more resource that we have for students, particularly if they’re just having a rough day, are stressed, or need to bring themselves back to where they need to be. The goal of the counseling office is to support students and also to give them what they need to function as a student. Angelo is here to help girls if they’re really upset, to get back to a place where they can be in class and/or just to provide a bit of stress relief. I think as soon as anyone pets Angelo they’re instantly happy!
How can therapy animals help students with mental health disorders?
I think that if a student is struggling with some sort of emotional health concern, she’s probably accessing lots of different ways to help herself be a student. Part of that is you might be in therapy, you might have medication, you might talk to a school counselor regularly, or you might have a variety of all those things. It’s just one more tool in a tool box. Just like you might take a minute to do meditation or mindfulness, you might take a minute to be one with Angelo! He’s for every student, not just those who identify with mental health concerns. All of us struggle with our emotions sometimes, so all of us need Angelo, that’s why we love him!
What’s your favorite part of having Angelo on campus so far?
My favorite part is that he seems to be an unconditional lover. The dog will walk up to anyone! Obviously he’s been trained to do this, but he will just walk up to you put his paws on your lap and just hug you like you are the most important thing in the world!
Finally, if you could pick one word to describe Angelo, what would it be?
Along with Mrs. Roman, I had the chance to interview Ms. Balz; Angelo’s primary care taker.
What's Angelo's favorite toy?
At home, it’s any toy that Ginger is currently playing with, who is my other dog. At school, he has a stuffed wolf that squeaks which is his favorite.
What is Angelo’s energy like throughout the day?
He is very mellow when he’s at school. If he’s in my classroom, he loves to pick a person and lay by their feet or get pet. Even when we go outside to visit students he’s very chill and laid back. He’s got the perfect therapy dog behavior.
Where does Angelo like to hang out?
He is a popular guy, so he spends part of everyday in the Counseling Department where he has a bed in Ms. Long’s office and a bed in Ms. Rose’s office. When he’s in my room, he likes to lay under the tables, even though he also has a bed in here! When he’s with Ms. Woodall, he wanders around the classroom and lays by people’s feet. He definitely likes to be close to people!
What’s it like bringing Angelo home to a furry friend every day?
Ginger is usually waiting for him by the door when she hears my car pull in the driveway and then they both will freeze, look at each other, run, and immediately start playing. When he’s at home, he’s constantly running and playing. They have these huge bones at home that I got from the canine trainer so when they’re not playing, they’re usually chewing on those. They love each other and they love to play!
Who was Angelo adopted by?
The way it works with a facility therapy dog is that the school as an institution owns him. I am his primary handler, which means he comes home with me, I bring him to work, I make sure that he goes to the vet and gets his grooming, and all the other duties of a typical dog owner. There’s three secondary handlers, as well; Ms. Woodall, Ms. Rose, and Ms. Long. They can have him at school and take him to classes and around campus.
Can you briefly explain the process of breeding and adopting a therapy dog?
I got into contact with a company in Indianapolis called Ultimate Canine. They have a really good reputation that they train service dogs, therapy dogs, and police dogs. They have a breeder that they work with who has been breading Australian Labradoodles for a long time, so that breeder knows what they need to do to have a hypoallergenic dog, which was important because he doesn’t shed and he won’t bother most people with dog allergies. Then you’re put on a waiting list. With each litter of puppies that’s born, they test them at eight weeks to see if they have the temperament to be a service dog, a therapy dog, or a pet. We were on the waiting list for over six months. This past March, Angelo was born. Over the summer I found out that he was placed with us and it was perfect because he had weeks of training, and came to us right before school came back into session.
When you first met Angelo, what was your reaction?
He was just the cutest little golden fluff! His fur was so soft and he was so beautiful. I just fell in love because he was so perfect. He was so calm and I knew that the girls would love him.
How do you think Angelo will benefit SUA?
If you’re feeling stressed or you’re feeling sad, or even if you’re feeling happy, just having an interaction with him will bring comfort. He also helps you kind of reset; if you’re having a bad day or you’re really upset, having that interaction can help you restart and go onto having a better day. It worked out perfectly that a religion teachers is one of his handlers because every student goes through religion class, so they have access to him there. He’s also usually in counseling during breaks and after school, so anybody can go there and see him too!
Finally, if you had to choose one word to describe Angelo, what would it be?
Angelo is, to say the least, sunshine to all! If you would like to access Angelo, you can find him in the Counseling Department throughout the day or with Ms. Balz in ES. He is sweet, compassionate, and caring, and he loves his sisters as much as we love him. I can’t wait to get to know Angelo better and see his positive impact on our community.
Angelo, we love you already!