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Press Paws brings therapy dogs to Hamilton Hall

Sarah Currier
Lupa poses in the doorway of the Press Paws room in Hamilton Hall.

By 2 p.m., most students had left Hamilton Hall. The building had risen to an uncomfortably high temperature after a power plant fire disrupted the campus cooling system. After the email had been sent out to students informing them that classes would be moving online for the rest of the day, they had little reason to stay in the building. This made the group of students assembled inside room 178B unusual—until you saw why they were there.

Lupa, a large Tamaskan Dog bred to look like a wolf, had attracted a small crowd. She was at Hamilton Hall for the second day of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication’s new Press Paws program, which aims to bring therapy dogs and Greenlee students together.

“She’s supposed to be more like a husky,” said Rafael Geronimo, her owner and trainer (and driver and butler, according to him). “You know… loud, obnoxious, stubborn.”

However, Lupa didn’t exhibit these traits while interacting with students. She rolled over for belly rubs, happily gobbled down treats and even performed a few tricks for the student’s enjoyment.

Press Paws is largely the creation of Jay Newell, an advertising professor at the Greenlee School.

“It’s Greenlee’s investment in [the] emotional well-being [of] our students,” Newell said.

Newell got the idea for Press Paws after several years of bringing his dog, Jake, to Barks at Parks and seeing what it did for students’ mental health.

“[Press Paws] has been everything we wanted it to be,” Newell said. “Yesterday, [we had] a room full of golden retrievers. For some people, that’s the definition of heaven.”

One of the items in the Press Paws room is a Polaroid camera. Newell wanted the camera there so students could have a physical token of their time with a dog.

“[Gen Z] has fewer and fewer physical items to lean on,” Newell said. “Having [something] physical is really important.”

Branded Press Paws stickers were also available for students to take home that were created by Kaylee Phillips Wellik, one of the event coordinators and a Greenlee Program Specialist. Iowa State student Adriana Rivera Rodríguez designed the logo, branding and illustrations in the entryway.

Sydni enjoys a belly rub from Greenlee students at the grand opening of Press Paws in Hamilton Hall on Aug. 23, 2023. (Brielle Tuttle)

“The logo [is] inspired by my dog, Lilo, [and] embodies the joy she brings to my life as a student,” Rivera Rodríguez stated.

When walking by room 178B, it is easy to spot the designs on the door and the wall.

“Working on the designs […] has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” Rivera Rodríguez stated. “It’s kind of surreal going from a student roaming the halls inside Hamilton to now having my designs up on the wall for all to see.”

She began working on the project after being asked by Newell. After several meetings, Rodríguez began creating visuals that she hoped would evoke feelings of home, belonging and community.

“Press Paws helps us connect with the students we see every day,” Phillips Wellik said. “It’s fun to see the students open up and interact with each other.”

One of the things that she likes about Press Paws is that therapy dogs who are calm around humans but sometimes reactive around other dogs can come in on their own.

“Not every dog gets along with every dog,” Phillips Wellik said. “This is more one-on-one, so that isn’t a problem.”

Harper Snead and Mariana Chavez, both majoring in public relations, were among the students visiting Press Paws. 

“I like it because it reminds me of when I get to go home and see my dog,” Snead said. “I will definitely come back.”

Chavez called the experience “a personalized Barks at Parks.”

“I find [dogs] very comforting,” Chavez said. “Of course, I’m going to come.”

The next Press Paws is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Monday. However, the dates and times for Press Paws won’t normally be available online. Instead, they will be posted on the walls of Hamilton Hall.

Though the event is for Greenlee students, the organizers hope other departments adopt similar programs in the future.

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