While she cannot speak, Annie excels at helping University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Counseling Center clients with anxiety and brings comfort to them in difficult situations.

Annie, a 9-year-old Pekingese, is the University’s therapy dog.

Annie was adopted by Sandy Cox, UW Oshkosh’s Counseling Center director, who has more than 25 years of experience as a counselor, from a dog rescue in Indiana where Annie was dropped off after being abused by college students at another university who used her as a football.

That hasn’t stopped Annie from providing unconditional love and care to the students who visit her at the UW Oshkosh Counseling Center.

Headshot of Sandy Cox“She’s not needy or attention-seeking like most dogs,” Cox said. “She goes to the people who need it and just sits on their laps and lets them pet her for as long as they need it.”

Annie, who joined the Counseling Center team in April 2014 with Sandy, helps clients feel more comfortable talking with a counselor, provides comfort when students have been involved in a crisis or difficult situation, leads an animal therapy group and even helps students develop social skills through role playing.

Animals can play an important role in the healing process through animal-assisted therapy (AAT). AAT is a scheduled visit with a certified therapy team—an animal and its handler—used to help the patient’s social, emotional, physical or cognitive functioning, according to research by Lorraine Ernst of the Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey.

“If I am with a student who I can see is getting upset or having a panic attack, I will ask the student if they are comfortable with Annie helping them and then I look at Annie and when she sees my signal she will go sit on their lap and help them feel calmer,” Cox said.

Cox said the thought of going to counseling can be scary or cause anxiety for some people, and Annie helps take that barrier away.

“Animals are safe. Generally speaking animals are not going to hurt you and will give unconditional love,” Cox said. “It’s that calming force that helps people be more comfortable with counseling and begin to heal.”

The UWO Counseling Center offers free, confidential personal, career and academic counseling, as well as therapy and support groups and wellness workshops.

To schedule an appointment, call (920) 424-2061 or visit the UWO Counseling Center office in the Student Success Center, Suite 240, 750 Elmwood Ave.

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