Therapy dog Anna-Belle will be part of the virtual visits. (Photo: University of Saskatchewan.)

USask therapy dogs go virtual amidst COVID-19 pandemic

SASKATOON – The University of Saskatchewan (USask) PAWS Your Stress Therapy Dog program is live online. Students and other members of the community can now connect and receive comfort and support from St. John Ambulance therapy dogs while learning pandemic-specific mental health self-care tips.

By University Communications

“We are all quickly learning that physical distancing doesn’t have to mean we disconnect from supports in our lives, and this includes therapy dogs. We are fortunate to have the technology to take our service online during COVID-19,” said Dr. Colleen Dell (PhD), a professor of sociology in the USask College of Arts and Science and the university’s Research Chair in One Health and Wellness.  

Beginning April 20 and until the end of July 2020, PAWS Your Stress events will take place at least twice a week online for USask students and for the greater Saskatchewan community. The 10-minute Facebook Live events will feature a therapy dog doing an everyday healthy activity, such as going for a walk or grooming.   

As another creative response, the program has partnered with Scholastic Canada for online readings of favourite children's books. In-training, current and retired campus therapy dog teams will be featured during the book-reading sessions of a specially selected book. Again, a linkage to keeping healthy during the pandemic will be featured. 

“The therapy dog teams care deeply about the well-being of students, staff and faculty on our campus and the people of Saskatchewan. We hope these virtual visits will be helpful to a lot of people who are isolated right now – kids, youth, seniors and adults,” said Dell. 

Zaphod, a Great Pyrenees therapy dog, and his handler Tonya will do the first online therapy dog visit Tuesday, April 21 at 1 pm. They will use Facebook Live (@PAWSYourStress), and afterwards the recorded video will be linked to additional social media platforms, including Instagram (@pawsyourstress), Twitter (@PawsStress) and YouTube (PAWSYourStress).   

Funding for the online program is provided by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation’s (SHRF) Research Connections COVID-19 Rapid Response Program and the Research Chair in One Health and Wellness. 

Find out more about Paws Your Stress here:  


For more information, contact: 

Victoria Dinh 
Communications and Media Relations Co-ordinator 
University of Saskatchewan 

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