Indiana Daily Student

Students can de-stress with service dogs during a week of wellness practice

Mackenzie, a 3-year-old pit bull terrier mix, wears his service dog vest June 20, 2018, in Walnut Creek, California. Balance Week, a weeklong event put on by student organization Balance at Kelley, will be Monday through Thursday and include an event with service dogs.
Mackenzie, a 3-year-old pit bull terrier mix, wears his service dog vest June 20, 2018, in Walnut Creek, California. Balance Week, a weeklong event put on by student organization Balance at Kelley, will be Monday through Thursday and include an event with service dogs.

Students will de-stress through different activities during Balance Week, a weeklong event put on by Balance at Kelley, a student organization, from Monday through Thursday, including an event with service dogs.

Balance at Kelley President Anoushka Chatterjee said the organization first had the idea to bring dogs to Balance Week in 2017, their and Indiana Canine Assistant Network at IU’s first year as a club on campus. Students in ICAN at IU volunteer to be involved in the training process of service dogs.

Students can spend time with the dogs Tuesday and Wednesday to destress, along with other planned activities, Chatterjee said. She said other activities throughout the week will include breakfasts, guided meditation, plant-making, art therapy, bracelets-making, aromatherapy and rock drawings. 

Chatterjee said a new addition to Balance Week is a mobile rage room, where students can relieve their stress by breaking things. 

“You also get to meet other people who are in the same situations as you,” Chatterjee said.  “Sometimes you can find a study buddy.”. 

Chatterjee said study tables are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the career services office, located in Hodge Hall, with snacks and coffee. 

She said the goal of Balance at Kelley is to destigmatize mental health issues and raise awareness to the issues students face in their daily lives. Chatterjee said the club is open to all students on campus. 

“All of these events are not only to raise awareness but also involve the members and involve students in a way that they can destress throughout their semester,” Chatterjee said. 

ICAN at IU President Hannah Walker said the club is there to relieve students’ stress and educate them on the club and service etiquette. 

“We have a lot of ICAN service dogs in training on campus, but there are also a lot of ICAN dogs that are working in the community,” she said.  “It’s important to kind of educate the public while also giving them a chance to relieve stress during finals.”

Walker said there are five different types of ICAN dogs for different purposes. She said there are dogs that help people with mobility issues, diabetic alert dogs, in-home skilled companions and dogs for veterans with PTSD or other trauma issues. ICAN dogs are also placed in schools, hospitals and courtrooms, Walker said. 

ICAN President Jillian Ashton said the organization’s service dogs live in correctional facilities and are trained by incarcerated people. She said the training takes two years and includes volunteer programs, including ICAN at IU, for the dogs to be socialized with volunteers during their training period. 

Ashton said the inmates train the dogs and volunteers bring the dogs into the community to reinforce those skills. The dogs are in the prisons for six weeks, then trained by community volunteers for three weeks. Ashton said the dogs are specifically trained to the clients’ needs during the last two to three months of training and are then placed with those individuals.

Ashton said this event helps to educate students while also giving them a chance to pet service dogs.

“Just having the dogs there to love on folks during balance week, I think it's a good thing for mental health,” Ashton said. “We all need and we all deserve a little bit of puppy love.” 

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