UNC graduate student Rachel Huss said people's eyes light up when they see her dog Oliver on campus.
Oliver is a three-year-old Bernedoodle — half-Bernese mountain dog, half-poodle — currently in his last stretch of training to become a certified therapy dog.
His owner, Huss, refers to Oliver as a “chief pawsitivity officer,” spreading comfort to those around him.
Huss said she is a graduate student in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, produces a lifestyle blog and works in social media consultation. However, she has been diligently training Oliver for the last three years.
Therapy dogs are used in public spaces to relieve emotional discomfort and promote well-being, often serving alongside their humans.
Huss said that therapy dogs are trained to be calm in the presence of noises, smells and other stimuli most dogs are sensitive to. This is so they can be calm and provide comfort in atypical settings, she said.
Oliver will soon serve in one of these stressful environments — working with children in hospitals, Huss said.
Huss was inspired to own a therapy dog while participating in a fundraiser for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as an undergraduate at the University of Central Florida.
She later watched a video of a Bernese mountain dog acting as a therapy animal and knew she wanted to provide a similar comfort to those around her.