Meet the therapy dogs helping stressed out students unwind

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Trixie, a 2-year-old Maltese mixed therapy dog jumps up during a visit by Paws to Share to El Camino College on Sept. 28. (Photo by Raphael Richardson | The Union)

Students and therapy dogs convened on El Camino College’s Library Lawn for a scheduled therapeutic event held on Wednesday, October 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. as part of an Active Minds Club initiative.

The organization Paws-to-Share provided the dogs, which they also did during a visit last month. Handlers were available to talk with students, explaining the individual stories that led to each therapy dog being where they are today.

Unsurprisingly, many students walking on their way to classes couldn’t resist the temptation and would stop for a few minutes to admire and even play with the dogs.

Nayeli, a Pre-Nursing student, pets Trixie, a therapy dog, during a visit by Paws-to-Share at El Camino College on Sept. 28. (Raphael Richardson | The Union)
Nayeli, a Pre-Nursing student, pets Trixie, a therapy dog, during a visit by Paws-to-Share at El Camino College on Sept. 28. (Raphael Richardson | The Union)

The Union staff spent time with the animals and spoke to their handlers to learn more about each dog’s background.

3-year-old Australian Shepherd Misty is originally from Texas.

Misty is calm but has a lot of energy when she needs to. She loves to play with people and dogs and loves to be pet.

Misty gets around. While originally from Texas she lived in Hawaii for a short period of time before ending up in the South Bay area.

Her owner Miyako Yanowe is a professional dog handler and got Misty when she was a puppy. Yanowe trained Misty to become a therapy dog because she wanted Misty to help people around her.

“It’s important for me as a pet owner because [Misty] brings joy to humans,” Yanowe said.

Misty’s canine colleagues Molly and Trixie also caught students’ attention, helped in part by their playful nature. The dogs would often jump up as students walked by.

Molly and Trixie are two Maltese dogs who previously lived in a shelter. Trixie is a rescue dog while Molly had a previous owner but became a rescue after the owner had to let go of Molly for personal reasons.

Molly and Trixie’s handler Robyn Latimer has assigned both to be specially trained by Paws-to-Share. The organization specializes in both dog and handler training. Paws-to-Share has previously partnered with El Camino College and will continue to do so for future dog visits.

Trixie (left) and Molly (right) being caressed
Trixie (left) and Molly (right) being caressed during a therapy dog event held at El Camino College on Sept. 18. (Raphael Richardson | The Union)

Latimer said almost any dog can be therapeutic to people who suffer from depression. “I also think it depends on the dog, but most dogs have that potential,” she said.

Latimer said a dog’s disposition is a major factor in determining a potential therapy dog.

Communications major Ren Uechi said that she couldn’t help stopping while on her way to class. Uechi took the time to meet the dogs and talk with handlers and fellow students, she enjoyed the small break.

Uechi is an international student and loved that El Camino promotes events like these to the campus community.

“In Japan [we don’t] have these kinds of events, so it symbolizes a lot to me,” Uechi said.

Molly, a 1-year-old Shitzu, was one of two therapy dogs to visit El Camino College on Sept. 28. (Raphael Richardson | The Union)
Molly, a 1-year-old Shitzu, was one of two therapy dogs to visit El Camino College on Sept. 28. (Raphael Richardson | The Union)

Nursing student Marcela Rodriguez said that she attended the event because she is afraid of dogs and is attempting to lose her fear. Rodriguez also said that the event provides a great opportunity to talk and make friends.

“People [who] have a lot of trouble with mental health… with this program or any kind of program they can help them making feel more welcomed to the world,” Rodriguez said.

The event lasted two hours and started to quiet down after 11:45 a.m. when most students are in their classrooms.

The therapy dogs will be returning to campus on Tuesday, November 15 on the Library Lawn from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.