News Southern Alberta

Therapy dog to be at Medicine Hat college for student support

Louie the therapy dog will be at Medicine Hat College every Monday at 3 p.m. His human, Allison Helm, is a mental health programmer with MHC. (Photo Courtesy of Allison Helm)

By Mo Cranker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Medicine Hat News

MEDICINE HAT – Every Monday is going to be bring your dog to work day for Allison Helm.

As a mental health programmer at Medicine Hat College, Helm will begin bringing her rescue pup Louie to MHC each Monday at 3 p.m. for students to spend time with.

Louie is a seven-year-old Shepherd mix and is a registered therapy dog. Helm and Louie will meet students outside the college’s front doors.

“We’re going to meet any students who want to meet Louie and spend some time with him,” said Helm. “I’ll have individual treat bags so everyone who comes can give him some treats.

“We’re going to be following all Alberta Health guidelines and we’ll have extra masks and sanitizer with us.”

After feeding and petting Louie, students can then opt to go for a short walk with the dog and his handler.

“This is great for students who may feel isolated or alone,” said Helm. “It can be hard for students being at home, and being around a therapy dog can be really beneficial.

“We encourage anyone interested to come out and spend time with Louie.”

Helm says there are differences between therapy dogs and service dogs, which should be noted.

Therapy dogs, like Louie, wear a vest and go places to give and receive love. People are allowed to pet Louie and feed him treats that are given out by the handler. Therapy dogs are not allowed to go wherever they please, and need permission to be at places like a college.

Service dogs have more training than therapy dogs and are there to help humans who have complex needs. Service dogs are not to be pet and are allowed just about anywhere people are. They also wear vests.

“Louie will be wearing his vest that labels him as a therapy dog, but we want people to know that he is friendly and a total suck,” said Helm. “He loves everyone.”

Louie’s Monday appearances at the college will be weather-dependent, and will be cancelled if it is unpleasant outside.