Pawsitive embrace of the canine cuddles program

By Alyssa Burgei,

Have you ever owned a pet? Maybe a dog or cat? Or perhaps a turtle, lizard or bird? Many families own pets, so when students leave for school, they miss having their pet with them. That’s why the Student Activities, Commuter Services and Leadership Development Board, along with the Office of Accommodation and Inclusion and Counseling Services at the University of Findlay created the canine cuddles program.

It features a 15-year-old dog named Mishka, who’s short haired German Wire-Terrier and Border Collie mix. Mishka’s been a pot of the Canine Cuddles Program for about 10 years, according to her handler Sharinda Welton. Welton is also the Director of the Student Activities, Commuter Services, and Leadership Development here on campus.

“Mishka started coming in 2013, but she was an Oiler before she was here for Canine Cuddles,” Welton said.

Mishka’s story started at the Hancock Humane Society, where she was left. Animal science majors from UF worked with her and considered her an Oiler when she was still known as Luna. The shelter considered putting her down before Welton adopted her in April 2013. Shortly after, she was renamed Mishka and brought in for a few small gigs, like Toys for Tots and other school related events.

Now, Mishka makes regular appearances every Monday during the school year as a traveling therapy dog, as well as at special campus events.

“I go every week. I even plan my class schedule around her visiting hours,” Safi said. “So, I have no classes Mondays from 2:00-3:00 p.m. in the fall and Mondays 3:00-4:00 p.m. in the spring.”

He says he’s been going to see her every Monday for two years, since he’s not allowed to have a dog on campus. Several other UF students go visit Mishka because they enjoy playing with her, giving her treats and scratching her belly.

Mishka helps people work with commands and communicate with dogs. The Canine Cuddles Program also helps international students become more comfortable with having pets if they typically do not. Cuddly pets (like dogs and cats) tend to help reduce the stress levels in people, which helps with increased productivity and improved mental health, according to the American Heart Association.

If a student ever feels overwhelmed or stressed, check out the canine cuddles program or visit Mishka every Monday.