Therapy dogs help ease tension on Paine College campus

News 12 at 11/ Wednesday, May 7, 2014

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AUGUSTA, Ga (WRDW) -- As the investigation into the Paine College shootings ramps up, things on campus are finally starting to calm down.

Students are trying to shift the focus back to exams. Some even ventured back to the campus. Those that did, got a little surprise.

A couple therapy dogs made their way across campus today. This time, it was a welcome visit to the dorms.

It was only two days ago a student was shot on the Paine College campus.

"It was very startling," graduating senior Michael Jones admitted.

It's been a stressful and scary week for the students and teachers that's left some in a slump and kept others from even coming to campus.

"It's kinda nice to stay away from campus as much as you can," student JT Hyer said.

"With everything that's just been going around, and the feel around campus, you just kind of feel a little down," Jones said.

The students who did show up for their last day of class got a much needed distraction. Crisis response dogs Cocky and Gordon made a visit to each dorm, helping students replace a bad memory with a good with each scratch of the ear.

"The dogs have a lot of empathy. They can feel what people feel. Sorrow, hurt, stress, that kind of thing," said Shelly Pyle, Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response.

"In this time, everybody needs some type of comfort and some type of relief," Jones said. "Seeing the dogs and seeing how carefree they are and how loving they are and accessible to everybody's love, it just makes you feel a lot better."

"When you'd see the dogs approach someone, you'd see their faces light up and become more comfortable," Dr. LaShawnda Lindsay-Dennis, Assistant Professor of Paine's Education Department and Counselor Intern.

Others decided to find their stress relief at home, especially after the college gave students the option to take their finals online.

"Majority of people I know are opting to take it online. Their parents have told them they want them home," Hyer said.

While the love of the dogs helped today, some are already thinking ahead to next year.

"There's a lot of kids I know personally, freshmen, that have already said their parents don't want them coming back, because that's kinda bad for your first year to come to school and something that bad happens," Hyer said.

Monday the college brought in community grief counselors and extended the hours of their counseling center for students who needed it, but even the counselors admit sometimes dogs can just help in ways humans can't.

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