University Announces Plans For Contact-Free Therapy Dog Session
In an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19 while still helping students alleviate their finals week stress, the university announced its intent to host a socially distanced therapy dog experience in the IMU. University of Iowa Events Chair Cara Feldstein introduced the idea at a press conference Friday, saying that the event “pioneers the world of non-contact-based therapy dogs.”
“Our first thought was to wipe down the puppies with Clorox wipes after each use, but nobody likes wet dogs,” she said. “So our plan changed to focus around avoiding students touching the dogs at all. In the new session, the dogs will be enclosed in plexiglass cubes and students can watch them run around and desperately try to get out. We know students will be upset that they don’t get the usual therapy dog sessions, but we hope that watching puppies frantically pawing a glass barrier just inches away from the students, trying their very hardest to get out and say hello… we hope that will be just as relaxing.”
Feldstein assured reporters that, to avoid potential spread of the virus from trainers to the students via the dogs, the containers will be completely airtight.
“We know that dogs can spread COVID-19, since many of the people who have had the virus have also had dogs,” she said. “We know that correlation doesn’t always equal causation, but we’re pretty confident in this one.”
The UI events planning team also workshopped several similar ideas for contactless therapy dog sessions, all of which were ultimately scrapped.
“One idea that I liked a lot was having therapy dogs leashed and kept just out of reach from students,” Feldstein said. “But that would rely on having a trainer present to yank the dog back if the students came too close, and we didn’t want to put the trainers at risk. Ultimately we decided that keeping the students and dogs separated with plexiglass was the safest way to offer the same experience as before.”
She also mentioned that she hopes this will inspire others to pursue safe alternatives to pet ownership until the pandemic ends, such as watching dog videos or investing in a Webkinz pet.