He’s small, he’s fluffy, and he’s our newest obsession. Meet Oscar, Dal’s on-campus therapy dog! This adorable bundle of love will be available for your petting, cuddling, and admiring enjoyment every Thursday from 3–4pm in the SUB for Puppy Power Hour. I was lucky enough to have a chance to sit down with Oscar (OK, so he was laying down, I was sitting) and ask him a few quick questions that I thought the public just had to know.
(Answers have been translated for our English-speaking human readers)
Q: Hey Oscar! So glad I finally get to meet you. I’m sure you’ve heard all the hype around self-care and know how important it is to one’s well-being. How do you like to take care of yourself?
A: I’m a huge advocate for self-care! Nothing hits the spot for me like a leisurely stroll around the city and a good old-fashioned belly rub…my favourite!
Q: Fresh air definitely does the trick for me, too! Kind of on the same subject: how do you get through your “off days” when you’re not feeling quite like your usual self?
A: Sometimes when I’m having an off day, I like to have a little alone time with a soothing scrub in the tub, but I also know it’s important to surround myself with support on days like that! Cuddling up for a nap, taking a walk with a friend, and of course the occasional treat (or two) help me get through the days when I’m feeling kind of overwhelmed.
Q: Sounds like you really have this self-care stuff down! Now, as a therapy dog, you spend a lot of time taking care of other people, too. Can you tell us a bit about how therapy dogs like you can benefit students?
A: Absolutely! Dogs like me can have a really calming effect on people. Studies have shown that being around us can even calm people’s heart rates and help them focus more on the present which can instantly lower levels of anxiety and stress. Plus, we tend to put a smile on people’s faces which never hurts anyone either.
Q: Just being yourself can make people feel that much better? Talk about super powers! What’s your favourite part about being a therapy dog?
A: Just being yourself can do wonders, trust me! I love everything about my job, but my favourite part is being surrounded by humans. I love you guys. It makes me so happy to see people smile when they’re around me—smiles are my favourite. Well…and belly rubs, of course!
Q: So, we’ve talked a lot about taking care of yourself and being aware of your own mental health, but what about when walks and naps just aren’t cutting it? How do you know when you or a friend is really struggling and what can be done?
A: Some signs you can watch out for in yourself and those around you that might mean something isn’t quite right would be changes in mood, behaviour, and overall enjoyment of life. People who are struggling often experience changes in appetite and sleep patterns as well. If you notice these changes in a friend, reach out to them. What they often need is a listening ear. Be calm and open-minded. Avoid giving advice and, instead, steer them towards the services they need for support. The same goes for yourself. If you notice a lull in your mental health, don’t hesitate to check out the services that are available to you for free on campus!
Q: You’re so right, Oscar! Dalhousie offers tons of mental health services for their students. What are your favourites?
A: OK, so I might be a little biased when I say that Puppy Power Hour is my favourite, but I do have some more recommendations. Dal Student Health & Wellness offers daily walk-in counselling appointments, peer support programs, weekly therapy groups, meetings with social workers, and so much more. Multifaith Services is another one of my faves—they offer weekly meals, meditation events, discussion groups, and advice regarding all things faith related. Any time I’m experiencing any sort of health issue, my first stop is always the Dal Student Health and Wellness Centre in LeMarchant Place. They’re super helpful and are able to point you in the right direction.
Q: Wow, who knew there were so many resources on campus! It seems like we’re running low on time and I know you’ve got your afternoon nap to catch, but I just have one more question I wanted to ask: what advice do you have to give to those who are currently dealing with a mental illness?
A: Yikes, you’re right, it’s almost time to catch some well-needed z’s! My advice can be summed up in just a few words: take care of yourself, get support, and most importantly, know that you’re not alone and it WILL get better!
Q: Thanks for sharing your time and wisdom with us Oscar! I personally can’t wait to see you again during this week’s Puppy Power Hour.
A: See ya there!
Like what you heard? Come meet this cute canine from 3–4pm every Thursday in the SUB lobby and be sure to bring a hefty supply of belly rubs and noggin scratches.
Want to learn more about Dal’s Mental Health resources? Check out some of the services offered by visiting the Student Health & Wellness website, stop by the clinic on the second floor of LeMarchant Place, or take a look at some previous Dal Student Life articles:
- 6 ways to improve your mental health
- Meet Dal’s Peer Support Workers
- 7 ways to help a friend through a mental health crisis
- What to expect at the Student Health and Wellness Centre
Catherine loves a good snuggle with Oscar. And Oscar loves a good belly rub from Catherine.