The Daily Aztec

Resident therapy dog provides helping paw

Courtesy+of+Baxteratsdsu+on+Instagram
Courtesy of Baxteratsdsu on Instagram

Courtesy of Baxteratsdsu on Instagram

Courtesy of Baxteratsdsu on Instagram

by Sarah Anderson, Staff Writer

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Counseling and Psychological Services offers an array of services to help students throughout the course of the semester.

Some services include individual counseling, couples counseling, group therapy, workshops, specialized programs and even therapy dogs.

Baxter is a seven-year-old Cocker Spaniel, Poodle and Maltese mix who spreads comfort and love around San Diego State.

And he has an Instagram as “baxteratsdsu.”

As SDSU’s resident therapy dog, Baxter helps students cope with a variety of issues, such as stress, homesickness and depression.

Baxter also sees many students who are simply missing their own beloved pets.

“It seems like he was born to do it,” Calpulli Center psychologist Diana Bull said. “He can tell when students are struggling.”

Baxter is in the Calpulli Center whenever he has a scheduled appointment.

He has his own office, where he socializes with whoever walks through the door.

Bull said Baxter loves it.

“He’ll roll over onto his back and just lay there until someone scratches his belly,” Bull said.

To those who do not generally enjoy dogs, do not worry.

“Baxter will make you a dog person,” Bull said.

Therapy dogs have been proven to reduce stress and improve overall health in many different scientific studies.

As reported in Nursing Research Journal, a positive psychological relationship between humans and their companion animals can signigicantly decrease blood pressure through their interactions.

Although college is usually described as the “best years of life,” Bull said the transition from living at home to moving away from your family for the first time can be difficult for students.

Bull, who obtained her bachelor’s degree in psychology from SDSU, worked as both a residential advisor and peer educator in the counseling center.

She also worked with children in a group home for a few years after college and described the experience as inspiring.

Bull returned to college to help students transition from adolescence to adulthood. 

Bull said Baxter can help smooth the transition because animals love unconditionally, never judge and are consistent companions.

Beyond helping individual students, Baxter helps to make mental health approachable and works with many student outreach groups on campus.

He is almost always present at CPS events.

Baxter is often seen with the Active Minds group, a student organization that focuses on depleting the stigma associated with mental health issues.

“Baxter serves as a stigma reducer,” Director of Counseling and Psychology Services Jennifer Rikard said. “He’s often more palatable to engage with than our offices.”

Baxter has an impressive resume.

He is a licensed therapy dog, which is different than an emotional support animal.

As a therapy dog he deals with masses of people, instead of a specific household or individual.

To become a licensed therapy dog, Baxter had to pass several tests to get his certification.

He was tested on his ability to maintain composure around hospital equipment, loud noises and food, as well as his ability to interact with a multitude of different people.

He passed with flying colors.

Students can make an appointment with Baxter by calling the Counseling and Psychological Services department at 619-594-5220.

The offices are open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday.

During finals week, Baxter can usually be found in the Love Library interacting with students.

His updated schedule is typically posted on his Instagram throughout the year.

When he is not on campus bringing joy to students, Baxter lives the good life at home with his owner Rikard.

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