Winona State therapy dogs go virtual

Sophia Sailer, News Reporter

Do you wish you could have a pet in your dorm? Winona State University is offering a way to virtually visit with dogs and connect with others through Pet Connections. 

Pet Connections is an event offered on campus every Wednesday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. this semester, hosted by Winona State counselor Lynda Brzezinski 

Brzezinksi owns three trained therapy dogs that she switches out each week to visit with students during Pet Connections. One dog is presented per meeting 

Trained therapy dogs have to pass tests that teach them manners when meeting new people. They learn multiple commands such as “sit”, “stay” and things like how to resist the urge to eat a dog treat if their human tells them to 

“The main thing is your dog has to be a people person,” Brzezinski said.  

Brzezinski said that in the past eight years, the Integrated Wellness Center on campus has had events for people to touch and interact with pets.  

In the past, each event had more than 300 students show up.  

Brzezinski didn’t want to stop these beloved events this semester, but with COVID-19 requirements like social distancing, it was tricky to create events in-person. 

Those petting the dogs would need to sanitize each time they touched a new dog and the dog would need to be sanitized as well between each new person 

The trainer and student could not have been six feet apart for these events either. 

Brzezinski is trying to form a plan that can work for students to be safe while petting the dogs in person, but for now, the meetings are strictly on Zoom.  

Those interested in the event have to email Brzezinski for that week’s Pet Connections Zoom link, and once joining the Zoom room for Pet Connections, Brzezinski brings one of her three dogs on screen to interact. 

Students can bring their own pets on screen as well 

Those in attendance talk about animals and they are able to connect with everyone in the Zoom room 

Although physically petting an animal may be more satisfying than seeing one on video, animals can be very helpful resources during COVID-19 campus life 

While quarantining or isolating, Pet Connections can play a part in offering safe socializing 

You do not want to miss this event, so show up when you can for this semester.