June 4, 2010: ‘Animals teach us how to be human,’ by Holly Andrews

June 4, 2010 by

The calming influence of an animal can soothe the most agitated soul.  I’ve been fortunate, both personally and professionally, to witness the good an animal can do.

Since college, I’ve always had an animal of my own.  I can’t imagine getting though college, my first job, and the stress of life without an animal to come home to.

In January 2010, Shane Britt, Director of Residence Life at Cloud County Community College, and I were presented with the incredible opportunity to work with Nestle, a professional therapy dog trained by C.A.R.E.S Inc. — Canine Assistance Rehabilitation education & Services.

Nestle’s primary responsibilities are to help CCCC students navigate the challenges of college life and to educate faculty and staff about how to interact with assistance dogs.

Once she arrived on campus, Nestle’s impact was noticed immediately by students, faculty, and staff. Students gravitated toward her. They walked in Shane’s office, asking, “Where’s Nestle?  I need her.” Faculty and staff had a similar reaction.

One afternoon while Nestle was in my office, a colleague and I were struggling to solve a problem. As our frustration grew, Nestle quietly got up and walked over to my colleague. He reached out to pet her. After interacting with the dog, we both began to calm down and eventually solved the problem. Only later was I able to reflect on what happened — and why.

In April, a tragic accident claimed the life of CCCC student Ridge Reed. As a college, we were grieving over the loss of one of our own. Unfortunately, Nestle was not on campus during the days after Ridge’s death. However, Nestle’s mother, Honor, took her place and was a source of comfort to students, faculty, and staff.

The day of Ridge’s memorial service, a student who spoke at the service stopped by to see Honor. Instinctively, Honor walked over to the student. Sobbing, the student reached out to pet the dog. After several minutes of silence, the student began to talk about Ridge and how she was coping with her the death of a close friend. Both Honor and I just listened. Twenty minutes later, the student left with a smile on her face chatting with one of her friends about plans for the weekend. Honor’s presence calmed the student and allowed her to better cope with her initial grief.

As Mary Lou Randour, a psychologist and Director of Human Animal Relations with the Humane Society of the United States, said, “Animals cannot  ‘talk’ to us, but they can communicate with us in a language that does not require words. They help us understand that words might even stand in the way.”

Animals teach us so much, yet ask for so little in return. In a time where bullying and violence are all too common, animals teach us how to listen, laugh, and love. In other words, they teach us how to be human.

Holly Andrews is Coordinator of Outreach Instruction on the Concordia campus of Cloud County Community College.

Comments

2 Responses to “June 4, 2010: ‘Animals teach us how to be human,’ by Holly Andrews”

  1. Vandi Lund on June 7th, 2010 12:37 pm

    I too have experienced the healing effects of having Nestle interact with a student at CCCC who was overwhelmed with making decisions. Nestle was right there offering her support. The student greatly appreciated it and so did I.
    My life has not been nearly as complete with the passing of my 13 year old companion, Duchess. My Shit-zu, who knew me as well as she knew herself. The past year has been difficult without her. Having animals in our lives is a little piece of heaven here on earth. Vandi

  2. Beth Whisler on June 7th, 2010 11:27 am

    I have had Holly Andrews speak to my psychology classes at the college and Nestle has been there, too. It has been interesting for my students to learn more about service dogs. I appreciate what Holly and Shane are doing here at CCCC.

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