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USC recently added a new staff member. And you could easily say he’s the furriest.
Professor Beauregard Tirebiter — dubbed “Beau” for short — is a 2-year-old black goldendoodle. USC may be the first U.S. university with a full-time facility dog on staff: The Office for Wellness and Health Promotion at the USC Engemann Student Health Center doesn’t know of any other university dog who does what Beau does. (A facility dog is similar to a therapy dog, but rather than being trained to work periodically with individuals, he’s trained to work with a multitude of people on a regular basis in a facility such as a hospital, school or nursing home.)
Beau earned his credential after extensive training with the Canine Angels Service Teams in Oregon. At USC he’ll be called a “wellness dog” and he takes residence on the second floor at Engemann, where paw print signs lead students to his location.
He has office hours and business cards, but he has trouble handing out the latter.
A couple of years ago, the Trojan League of Los Angeles, an alumni group, donated funds toward student wellness. After some deliberation by Engemann officials, Beau seemed like the right choice.
“We had such a positive reception from students from the visiting therapy dogs and also looking at the literature and specifically the benefits of human-canine interaction,” said Amanda Vanni, his handler and a health promotion specialist at the center.
Calm and well-being
Research suggests that positive interactions with dogs can create a sense of calm and well-being, according to Olga Solomon, an assistant professor at the USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. Petting a therapy dog, for example, can increase serotonin, beta-endorphin and oxytocin – chemicals and hormones that make people happy – and decrease cortisol, a stress hormone.
Cate Dorr, who researched facility dogs while studying for her doctorate in occupational therapy at USC, said the dog can also remove a barrier for students with qualms about accessing resources at the center.
I think this is probably an area that is continuing to be pioneered, and it’s great USC is taking the lead.
“I think this is probably an area that is continuing to be pioneered, and it’s great USC is taking the lead,” Dorr said.
Beau has been on campus for a couple weeks now, so he’s used to visitors.
On a recent Thursday, Madeleine Fox, 19, got down on the floor to hang out with Beau, then stuck around to do some schoolwork.
“I really miss my dog from home, so it’s the best,” said Fox, a second-year student. “Dogs are the epitome of good and that just rubs off on us and makes us happier.”
Beau showed off a bit, shaking paws with onlookers.
“It’s great,” said freshman Jerome Ching. “I’ve just grown up around dogs my whole life.”
Canine and community
Paula Lee Swinford, director of the Office of Wellness and Health Promotion, said Beau will help create a sense of community at USC.
“We wanted to do something that would change our culture,” she said. “What Beau brings is a consistent relationship for students. … He will remember them.”
Vanni, who takes Beau home with her every day, will be training him to get comfortable all over campus. She’s also teaching him some tricks.
“I’m teaching him how to do a ‘Fight on’ right now,” she said. “Obviously he can’t split his paw, but we’re working on a paw out in the air.”
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