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Meet Cooper, Harvard's First Therapy Dog

Seen yesterday at Harvard Medical School's Joseph B. Martin Conference Center. My first reaction: Damn, that dog is cute! Then: But come on, can even the cutest dog really make inroads on the stress of a place like Harvard? And then: I wonder if we could get one for WBUR?

I knew therapy dogs were growing in popularity, but hadn't realized they'd reached this far into the mainstream medical establishment. Wikipedia notes:

therapy dog is a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitalsretirement homesnursing homesschools, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations, such as disaster areas.

Which begs the question: Does Harvard's stress rival a disaster area's?

The Harvard Gazette recently ran a suitably fluffy story about Cooper here; on the serious side, it notes that Cooper is part of prodigious wellness efforts at the university, meant to alleviate stress and promote health. Harvard Health Publications also wrote about Cooper here, including the evidence base:

Studies going back to the early 1980s support the idea that dogs—and other pets—have enormous health benefits for people. Pets have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve recovery from heart disease, and even reduce rates of asthma and allergy in children who grow up with a Fido or a Frisky in the house. Pets also improve people’s psychological well-being and self-esteem.

That story also included a link to — God help us — Cooper's own blog, here.

Correction: Originally, this post attributed a recent story about Cooper to the wrong publication; it was in fact the Harvard Gazette.

This program aired on October 14, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.

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