Cuddles from Oscar proving popular at the Mount

Last year, the Mount’s Counselling Services staff welcomed a new member to their team – Oscar, a 3-year-old Shi Tzu therapy dog certified through St. John’s Ambulance.

Every Thursday, Oscar accompanies Mount Psychologist Marriam Abou-El-Haj to work and helps students relax. Having Oscar to cuddle with helps students who are dealing with a variety of mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, social issues and homesickness. Although this type of therapy has been around for several years, many Canadian East Coast universities have only recently caught on to the positive effect that dogs can have on students.

Clinical evidence suggests that therapy dogs can help fill the absence of previous support systems and support students in their adjustment to a new lifestyle in university.

IMG_0483“Having Oscar available to students has made a great difference,” says Marriam. “One of the positive side effects is that he has helped to de-stigmatize Counselling Services so students feel more comfortable asking for help.”

As a dog lover herself, Marriam knows the comfort a dog could bring when experiencing stress or loneliness. “As a psychologist working with university students, I often hear students express that they are missing their family pet,” she says.

So how did Oscar make his way to the Mount? Knowing there was a need for his services, Marriam consulted a friend of hers – Oscar’s owner – to make arrangements for the dog to join her on campus once a week. When not volunteering his time at the Mount, Oscar’s makes a difference to many others through his visits to retirement homes in the area.

Get your Oscar cuddles!

Oscar is available for cuddles on Thursdays from 1:00– 2:00 p.m. in Evaristus 219F when he is on his lunch break from seeing clients. Students and staff are encouraged to drop by to meet him, and to learn what all the hype is about!