Dogs comfort Purdue students shaken by shooting

Therapy dogs went to Purdue University Friday to comfort students after a recent shooting.

Posted on Feb. 1, 2014 at 2:44 p.m.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — When tragedy strikes, Rain’s job is to pick up the pieces.

She’s traveled to Henryville in the wake of the devastating tornadoes that ripped through the area in 2012, and South Bend to comfort people after a fatal airplane crash and house fires.

There’s something unique about her therapy style, though: Rain accomplishes her best work when she’s laying down, accepting belly rubs and friendly pats from passers-by.

The mild-mannered King shepherd was in full therapy dog mode Friday at Purdue University, where students and staff are reeling from a fatal shooting last week that left one student dead and another in custody, charged with murder.

Electrical engineering student Andrew Boldt, 21, was pronounced dead Jan. 21 after being shot and stabbed by Cody Cousins, 23, who also is an electrical engineering student.

As Purdue students knelt down to pet Rain, who was surrounded by colleagues including a husky, a golden retriever puppy and a Labrador retriever, her handler, the Rev. Bert Woolson of Winamac, described the effect that therapy dogs such as Rain have on people.

“It literally lowers your blood pressure,” Woolson told the Journal & Courier. “When there is a tragedy, we can be deployed anywhere. She just goes in and calms everybody down.”

Friday was dubbed the Day of Healing on campus, and therapy dogs were just one attraction inside the France A. Córdova Recreational Sports Center aimed at de-stressing students.

There were cooking demonstrations and yoga. Student organizations, including Cary Club, Purdue Student Union Board, and the Art of Living, hosted activities, too. The dogs were from the state’s K-9 Assisted Crisis Response Team, which is part of the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction.

“It’s an opportunity for students to come together and just have some time to de-stress,” said Sue Wilder, Purdue’s associate dean for assessment and planning.

Kelley Stier, coordinator of co-curricular experience, said student organizations wanted to get involved in the event, which was welcomed by administrators.

“This opportunity gives students an outlet to be among friends during a difficult time,” Stier said. “This event provides different ways for students to connect. We really counted on our students to tell us what they need right now.”

Friends Maureen Jones, Mary McInerney and Alix Phillips, all seniors, said the event truly relaxed them, especially interacting with the dogs.

“It was definitely a positive surprise,” Jones said. “You don’t know about it and appreciate it until it happens to you.”

“It was almost an escape,” Phillips said, “just going and petting the dogs and getting your mind off things.”

Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com


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