Love on a Leash pet therapy program helps brighten...

Love on a Leash pet therapy program helps brighten students’ day

The Love on a Leash pet therapy program has partnered with MTSU to connect stressed-out students with unconditionally loving furry friends.

On Monday, November 16, Love on a Leash will come to MTSU for its third visit this year.

Over the course of this semester, Love on a Leash and MTSU have been establishing a tradition of visiting the John Bragg Center for an hour, starting at 11 a.m., on a pre-scheduled Monday every month.

The organization is completely volunteer based, and this particular chapter operates around Nashville; MTSU is just one of their many lucky stops.

Teams of handlers and their pets seek to bring joy and warmth to the lives of the university’s students, just as they do in many of their other event locations.

The organization regularly travels to various spots, including nursing homes, hospitals, schools, small businesses, libraries and fairs. Sometimes the pets have made individual visits to comfort widows or elderly community members who request a little brightness in their day.

In fact, this is the unofficial motto of the Music City chapter of Love on a Leash, (and it is the reason why the volunteers offer highlighters bearing the organization’s logo). “We’re there to brighten people’s day.”

In the tumultuous time before finals begin, students may find that the opportunity to connect with these animals is just the reprieve they’re seeking.

What kinds of animals may attendants expect to see?

The Love on a Leash program accepts dogs, cats and bunny rabbits, but the Music City chapter presently only boasts one cat and doesn’t have any bunny involvement so far.

The dogs that participate are as various as can be imagined. They must be at least a year old to participate, and beyond that there is no ideal age.

Young and old, small and large, high energy and low energy: all are welcome.

No breed is barred from joining, so long as they’re able to meet certain standards.

(Photo: Darby McCarthy)

“Our dogs have to pass a… veterinary check; they have to pass a control evaluation, which is a training test very similar to… a Canine Good Citizen [test] – not quite the same but very, very similar,” Rebecca Pyle, chapter leader for Music City Love on a Leash explained.

Part of the Canine Good Citizen test teaches the pups not to take food or items out of people’s hands, for example.

“And then after they pass that, they have a year to complete 10 supervised visits, and then… a certified team will supervise a training team… And then after that you submit your paperwork to national… get on their insurance, and then you’re a certified member.”

Dogs may also receive specialized certifications if their handlers wish, such as a certification to allow kids to read to them at library or elementary school events.

While the events, like the ones hosted by MTSU, are very low risk scenarios, the dogs, cats and bunnies must always be on a leash. Specifically, the organization has a four-foot leash rule.

If attendants have cat or dog allergies, they might want to be wary; otherwise, animal lovers can pet the furry therapists for free without worry.

MTSU students can show up at any point on Monday for the duration of the one-hour visit.

If the visit were to last any longer than that, the therapy teams would start to feel a little worn out.

Students are encouraged to remember to be courteous and polite to the handlers as well as their trusted animals, so they’ll be encouraged to return.

After all, the services provided are 100% volunteered. The handlers are asked not to accept any kind of compensation such as gifts or monetary tips.

Even treats would be best left at home, because some of the animals will have more specific diets, and their handlers are likely to bring treats of their own anyway.

The dogs and cat who volunteer love to do what they’re doing. They light up to see one another again, and to get to interact with so many strangers.

The event is public, not a series of one-on-one sessions.

The Bragg building will lay down blankets and any passing students may stop to pet the dogs for as long as they wish. All are welcome to join up and relax.

For more information about the local chapter of the Love on a Leash program, click here.

Author Darby McCarthy is currently an undergraduate student at MTSU, majoring in Journalism in the College of Media and Entertainment. The views and opinions expressed above are her own.