Puppy Love: Health Services welcomes new therapy dog

By Melissa Proulx
On May 6, 2014
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  • Health Services welcomes its new therapy dog, a Great Dane mix named Hamilton. The 4-year-old charming canine is still in a trial period, but owner Maria Caplan hopes he will be utilized more in the future to help relieve students’ stress. Melissa Proulx/Staff

With a name like Hamilton, there's little room left for doubt that the big white Great Dane mix you might have seen wandering around campus belongs here.

Health Services' new therapy dog has been making his rounds through campus by visiting students in dorms and academic buildings, a welcomed stress reliever during the whirlwind that is finals.

"For the past few weeks, he's been here just on a trial basis," said Maria Caplan, a nutrition educator for Health Services and Hamilton's owner. "But we can really see just how much this can help students with Health Services' mission."

The two started off by just coming to campus on Mondays this past April but have recently made the upgrade to coming by Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

"He just turned 4 in April," Caplan said. "This year on his birthday, he actually made his debut on campus."

The [most desirable] elephant in the room, Hamilton, who is a little over 5 feet tall when he jumps up to give you a hug, has also been helping out with other Health Services programs.

"He accompanies me to different groups and programs, just to kind of be there," Caplan said. "He's an added comfort in a group that's there to help people."

For Caplan, Hamilton has proved to be a great addition to her family. She adopted Hamilton back in fall of 2011, when she and her husband were living in Houston, Texas, and he was just a 5-month-old puppy.

"We really wanted a dog and saw that he came up for adoption," she said. "The family who dropped him off at the Humane Society brought him in on a Friday night, and we picked him up Saturday morning."

Now living in New England with the Caplan's and their other dog Zoi, a Louisiana Catahoula Leopard, Hamilton has definitely made a home in the area's quaint countryside. Even with the shock of this past winter, he is still slowly learning to adjust to the cold, especially with companions.

"I have a horse, and he loves to go run on the farm where I keep it," Caplan said. "He has a dog-sister who he gets to play with, and they're happier now that it's getting warmer."

With the semester coming to an end next week, Hamilton will continue to make cameos on campus and will also participate in the Study Buddies program, where some fluffy friends will be brought to studying students in Dimond Library at the University of New Hampshire.

Caplan, while gearing up for a summer off, said she's looking forward to what lies in store next year for her playful pooch. She hopes to have students trained to take care of him and use him in their programs around campus.

"The word I got from our Executive Director [Kevin Charles] is that he hopes to do more with Hamilton in the future. What that exactly looks like, we don't know yet," Caplan said. "I hope it will bring more students to Health Services. In the fall, if he's here every day, students can stop in our office [at the Office of Health Education and Promotion] and hang out with him."

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