Do you feel sad or depressed sometimes? Do you miss your family pet and just need a friendly companion to talk to? Tivo, a purebred black Labrador retriever, is the newest addition to the Wellness Center at Loyola University Chicago and is trained specifically to be a best friend whenever he’s needed.

A concept that was spawned out of finals week therapy, Tivo has joined the Wellness Center team ready to work and assist anywhere he is needed around campus. He is a five-year-old black lab retriever who was rescued from an animal shelter as a puppy, and after the proper training, he became a licensed therapy dog. Joan Holden, Tivo’s official holder/trainer, talked with Inside Loyola about the type of education and tests he had to go through.

“When he was a younger dog he did the TOPS obedience course at the canine training center for obedience. Then he worked at the sheriff’s department for a three week obedience training. He lived with me over summer, and I went through three more training sessions,” recalls Holden. “At end of August he took his therapy exam, and he had to be able to sit, stay, walk past food without eating it, ignore other dogs, be able to be brushed, approached by strangers, ignore things like walkers, crutches, and things that make loud noises, stay in one position, and be able to walk away and come back.”

Research has shown that people are drawn to pets and animals, and the Wellness Center is using that information to find a new way to engage with students on campus. Diane Asaro, the Wellness Center director, couldn’t be happier with Tivo and his job description.

“Tivo’s job description includes being loved and playing,” says Asaro. “We use Tivo with patients for calming, for outreach in the residence halls, and to be sent out with a human counselor in hopes that students can come and pet the dog as a way to connect with the Wellness Center outside the office. It is our first time trying it, and he has already gotten such a positive and wonderful response.”

Tivo is a hardworking dog and even has his own program, Talk with Tivo, where he will visit the Klarchek Information Commons, Sullivan Center, and Mertz for an hour each week with a counselor to connect with students. Counselors may bring him into counseling sessions and incorporate him into the therapy process.

“I think that dogs can help in so many ways. Many students have left loved family pets at home, so Tivo can be a kind of surrogate pet or transitional object for students missing their dogs,” says David deBoer, associate director and clinical psychologist at the Wellness Center. “Tivo really serves as a comfort, pleasure, and joy for college students; a friendly reminder of the comforts of home.”

When Tivo isn’t out saving the world, he lives with Father Daffron in Campion Hall. After a long day with a rigorous schedule that starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends around 6 p.m., Tivo is free to go home to Campion where he enjoys an evening filled with fetching his favorite ball and running in his grassy play yard on Sheridan Road. “He is playful and wants to have fun all the time,” exclaims Father Daffron.

The Wellness Center approached Father Daffron with the idea of a therapy dog, and when he moved into Campion Hall this fall, “the Wellness Center re-approached me, and asked if I would be willing to take Tivo,” says Daffron.

“That is when the relationship was formed. I had never had a dog before, and I wanted to help the Wellness Center,” concludes Daffron. “I think it is just great to have him there, and he is able to help students in ways that we can’t.”

If you have any questions regarding Tivo’s services, please contact the Wellness Center.