By Shannan Peck
Ryerson students aren’t the only creatures returning to campus this spring. Therapy dogs are returning to the Recreation and Athletic Centre, and, like some students, they have mixed feelings about going back in-person. To understand their perspective, The Eyeopener went to the local dog park to hear their thoughts.
“I love being a therapy dog, but it can be a bit much,” commented Bagel, a seven-year-old schnauzer. “Even with a nearly two-year break, it doesn’t feel like I actually had a break. I wouldn’t say that it’s harder than being a nurse, but there are just so many people who need you. I liked the extra attention, but this pandemic is exhausting.”
“Agreed. I use a lot of emotional labour. Some of them hug really tight, but you don’t want to tell them to let you go because they need you,” Jackie, a two-year-old boxer, lamented.
“Pup cups are good and so is a spoonful of peanut butter, but after some shifts, you need the entire Costco jar of peanut butter, you know,” Jackie continued. “Like the idea of being pet by a hundred humans is fantastic, but it comes with an emotional weight. It’s a good job, and my five pups want to volunteer.”
Some of them hug really tight, but you don’t want to tell them to let you go because they need you”
Rutger, a three-year-old pitbull who isn’t part of the program, sighed. “Honestly, I would love to join this—being a therapy dog is my dream job, but technically I am still illegal in Ontario because I’m violent or something. If we want to talk violence, you should talk to Goldie.”
“It’s true. I make one list per year of people who I’d bite a finger or two off of, if given the opportunity.” Goldie, a long-standing member of the Ryerson Therapy Dog team affirmed. “I think it is a perfectly reasonable response to some of the things the students tell us; never a client of course, but I think there are a few parents, bosses, professors and even a doctor or two that could function with eight fingers.”
“No one ever expects a golden retriever, and if someone were to lose a finger to a golden retriever, they will ask what the person did. They’ll know what they did. I do too. This is a direct warning to you, Brad from New York City. A direct warning.” Despite not being Brad or ever visiting NYC, this reporter decided to move on to the three latest recruits.
The three new dogs—Heisenberg, Mirabel and Pepper—do not share the same feelings as the long-term staff members.
Pepper, a four-month-old border collie, expressed excitement about getting their first paycheque and admitted they had no idea what to expect from their job. Mirabel, a three-year-old lab, is from a large family and thinks the job will be easier than family life because she won’t have the same emotional connection with students as with the preteens at home who also cry in her fur.
Heisenberg, a five-year-old mastiff, laughed and asked: “Do you even know who I’m named after? People who like my namesake have issues. It’s the same emotional shit as always, but different people.”