MCLA Welcomes Maple the Comfort Dog Hunker

The organization donated the poodle, which was bred to be hypoallergenic. Berkshire Comfort Dogs trains and grooms the dog for free.

“A dog is donated by Berkshire Poodles, which is $3,500. Then the average annual cost for dogs with vet bills, training, and grooming is $2,000 a year,” Kohlenberger said.

Fortunately, Dr. Sharon M. Lynch of the Hilltown Veterinary Clinic is volunteering her time. But with the growing popularity of nonprofit organizations, Berkshire Comfort Dogs is reaching out to other Berkshires veterinary clinics to donate their services.

On May 31, the college announced it was getting a comfort dog and asked students, faculty, staff and alumni to vote for its name. The options were Juno, Maisel and Maple. Maple won by an overwhelming majority with over 100 people voting in favour.

Finally the litter was born and eight weeks later Maple was ready. Hantman was able to pick her up last week.

In the past, MCLA has hosted events that included animals to help reduce student stress, including student favorite “Barn Babies.” These types of events would receive a high number of participants before the pandemic. Hantman said MCLA is thrilled to be able to provide this new resource to its students.

“The [Student Activities Council] does barn babies every year which is always a huge hit as well. So I’m sure those kinds of things will happen,” Hantman said. “And we’re working on more volunteer opportunities through our office with the Berkshire Humane Society and things like that. So there has been student interest in it. »

Over the next year, Maple will complete three training courses. She will follow this training alongside her litter siblings.

“These dogs are not trained as highly as service dogs, but they are trained much higher than emotional support animals and things like that,” Kohlenberger said.

Until she completes her training, Hantman will be with her at events, during the “Maple period,” and whenever students interact with her.

After her training, students will be able to disconnect her so they can interact with her without Hantman. This will open up his availability since students will not be restricted to his schedule.

Riello said he has seen major support from faculty for this new addition and believes it will help students’ mental health, especially after surviving a pandemic.

“There’s like one or two people who might not be dogs, but even they see the benefits to the students and the community and are on board,” Hantman added.

SGA President Ian Crombie, a senior, said Maple’s presence on campus will also inform students with mental health issues about counseling and other resources the school already offers.

“We have free therapy resources on campus, but I think a lot of students are a little scared to take advantage of them, because they’re scared to talk to someone about how they’re feeling. So I think that having the dog would hurt them in the doorway a bit. To be able to feel comfortable going up to people,” Crombie said.

Crombie also noted that he felt more motivated to come to the office in the morning because he gets to see her.

Maple’s impact on campus has already been felt by SGA students who are on campus this summer for orientation. On Wednesday, SGA students were introduced to Maple.

MCLA junior Irving Mogene stepped out of his comfort zone and interacted with Maple despite his fear of her at first. After Maple was passed on to his peers, he asked to hold it and received presentations on how to do so safely. As he held Maple in his arms, she fell asleep and he began to warm up to her. Although he was hesitant at first to hold her when he put her down, he wanted a few more seconds.

Mogene said he thinks Maple’s presence on campus will help people get out of their comfort zone, as it encourages shy, dog-loving students to come to Maple and interact with their peers who also love dogs. Maple.

MCLA isn’t the only school to welcome these comfort dogs on campus. In addition to the Pittsfield Police Department, Pittsfield Public Schools, the Boys and Girls Club and 15 other organizations have also taken the plunge.