BLUEFIELD, Virginia – Sometimes college students feel lonely, stressed out, and confused when they are away from home. Then it can be of great help to have someone happy to see you and ready to play fetch.
When students return to the Bluefield College campus this fall, they will be greeted by Hazel, a white Labrador Retriever who will be the college’s therapy dog at the Center for Counseling and Wellness.
Hazel, owned by Dr. Jessica Sharp, Dean and Professor of Nursing at Bluefield College, was born last April in Frisco, Texas.
After the death of Sharp’s white Labrador Aggie, Sharp suggested to Emily Cook, director of counseling and wellness at Bluefield Colegge, the idea of getting a therapy dog to help students in need of such assistance.
“DR. Sharp came up with the idea because we work so closely on the third floor of the Science Center,” said Cook. “She thought it would be a great way to provide services to students together and help clear barriers to access to mental health services on campus. Some students may feel uncomfortable coming to a counselor, but it may be different when students come to Hazel. “
“Your main job will be to support the students,” said Cook. “It can help you to feel comfortable during the consultation, to relieve nervousness during your studies or to reduce stress during a wellness event on campus.”
Hazel is named after Brig. General Dr. Hazel Johnson-Brown, the first black army corps chief and first black brigadier general, said Sharp. Johnson-Brown, who worked as a nurse in the operating room, graduated from the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing and enlisted in the US Army in 1955. After Johnson-Brown retired, she was Professor of Nursing at Georgetown University in Washington, DC and George Mason University in Virginia.
“All of my dogs have been named after grooming theorists,” Sharp said.
Previous dogs had names such as Florence after foster pioneer Florence Nightingale.
“I started looking back at all of the nurses who had influenced my life,” Sharp recalls. “I had a professor at George Mason University in Brig. General Hazel Johnson-Brown who was great. I hadn’t named a dog after her yet. “
Hazel is still a puppy, but she will serve as an emotional support animal until she is trained as a therapy dog. Your training begins in August with four courses in six-week steps.
“Your first class is puppy class,” said Cook. “After completing the puppy class, she will move on to the beginner class, middle class, advanced class and finally therapy dog training.”
Hazel has already shown how playful puppies and friendly dogs can uplift people in need of a good emotional boost.