Caroline, the Therapy Dog
Mount Saint Mary College Students Katie Gerdts (left) and Mary Barrie (right) with Caroline, the therapy dog. (Photo by William Biersack)

by Christina Cerutti

On Thursday, February 21st, Mount Messenger had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Debra Hrelic and Caroline. Caroline is a beautiful Yorkie who will be turning 10-years-old on February 23 and who has been acting as a therapy dog in Curtain Memorial Library this semester. Dr. Debra Hrelic is a full-time nursing Assistant Professor. In the meeting, Mount Messenger had the opportunity to ask a few questions about the new celebrity on campus.

Mount Messenger: Can you tell us a little bit more about Caroline?

Dr. Hrelic: Caroline is very laid back and loves to lick people. She is certified by Therapeutic Dogs International. She has been exposed to nursing classes on and off as well.

Mount Messenger: What kind of training did Caroline have to go through to become certified?

Dr. Hrelic: First she had to go through 2 years of obedience training. She also had to go through a program by the American Kennel Club called the Canine Good Citizen program. Caroline also needed to practice be comfortable with walkers, crutches, and canes so she wasn’t startled.

Mount Messenger: What is the most rewarding part of this entire experience?

Dr. Hrelic: Caroline’s ability to make people happy. It’s such an experience to watch her share so much joy!

When Mount Messenger asked Dr. Hrelic if she had a particular place working with Caroline that she would never forget, she said Newtown, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary School. On first arriving a few days after the tragedy, it was both challenging and heart breaking. Caroline was among other Therapeutic dogs who did their best comfort the broken hearts of victims families, first responders, and the children of Sandy Hook. The commute to Newtown is only fifteen minutes from their home, so they were present at Sandy Hook Elementary’s first week at their new school. They continue to contribute by going to Newtown every Monday.

Mount Messenger: Have you seen changes from spending all this time in Newtown?

Dr. Hrelic: Oh yes! There are still some delayed reactions to what happened but over all Caroline brightens up their spirits each week!

Mount Messenger: What other places has Caroline been too?

Dr. Hrelic: She’s been to nursing homes, Alzheimer centers, homes, rehabs. Currently right now we only go to Newtown and the Mount.

If school work is stressing you out, come to library on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30 to 1 pm on the main floor. There you’ll see Caroline who will probably be wearing a fabulous yellow bow to make you smile!