‘Afternoons with Aiden’ accompanies therapist


Nicole Girgen

Aiden is the 6 year-old boxer pug who has taken over the hour long therapy dog slot in place of Winston on Monday nights from 4 to 5 p.m. in IWC 267. Aiden loves to sit in peoples laps and give big wet kisses.

Kellen Brandt, Features Reporter

Of all the new changes that come with college life, not having a pet is always one of the hardest.

Lynda Brzezinski, a counselor at Winona State University, wanted to find a way to help students struggling without their pets.

“I did more reading and research and realized my role on campus as a therapist is perfect to bring animals in. I love dogs and thought this would be a great thing to share with students,” Brzezinski said. “I had to convince campus though and it took me about two years to convince the university that bringing in a therapy dog would help to benefit the students.”

After getting her idea approved in 2012, Brzezinski has been bringing her dog, Winston, onto campus so students can visit him. On Wednesdays there is a special couple of hours during the day called ‘Wednesdays With Winston’ that any student can come to and just hang out with Winston.

“Winston is seven years old now and was one year old when he came to campus so now he thinks he owns campus. It provides comfort and relieves stress when an individual interacts with a dog,” Brzezinski said. “Their stress hormones decrease as their body’s oxytocin is released when people interact with animals. The feel-good chemicals are increased so there are a lot of benefits with interacting with dogs. Students who are depressed or anxious are very calmed by the animal.”

Winston also spends the remainder of his Wednesdays in Brzezinski’s office, assisting her with all of her appointments with students.

“Having Winston in the office while I have students makes the space in the office more welcoming and can remind students of home. Winston is also very intuitive, if a student is in my office crying, Winston will often come and sit by their feet. Other times he will just let students pet him and he is comforting enough just being there in the office most times,” Brzezinski said.

Just this year, Brzezinski brought a new dog, Aiden onto campus for ‘Afternoons with Aiden.’  These afternoons are much like ‘Wednesdays with Winston,’ but Winston needed a little break from group sessions.

“Aiden is 6 years old and this is his first year ever doing anything like this. He is a good boy, but he just couldn’t quite pass his test until he was a little bit older,” Brzezinski said. “Aiden loves jumping into people’s laps and cuddling so he was happy to have about 50 students come to see him last week.”

Zachary Hanson, freshman criminal justice major at Winona State, talks about his experience visiting Aiden.

“I didn’t know there even was a therapy dog on campus until I was talking about my dog, Rusty, from back home and how much I missed him,” Hanson said. “Some friends told me about Aiden and they made me over to go see him and I ended up really liking him.”

Aside from the couple of hours students can come and visit Aiden on Mondays, he also sits in on all appointments Brzezinski has with students during her day.   

“Aiden loves jumping up onto students laps and cuddling, but after his two-hour group session he was so tired from jumping up onto everyone’s laps. He is really doing a great job with the students.” Brzezinski said.