Man’s four-legged furry friends are used to alleviate the stress of many different situations, such as test anxiety, social anxiety, and even making appearances as the friendly faces in hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up residents with their lolling tongues and fluffy tails. This year, the task is simple: often with a “go visit” command, the Domesti-PUPS therapy dogs are 'unleashed' upon the Olympic hopeful swimmers to be cute, cuddly, and friendly to all. And dogs like Larry and Holly dive headfirst into their work.
During an interview with USA Today, Kacey Oberlander admits to missing her dogs at home. “It just calms me down a lot,” Oberlander says, as she holds Holly the Havanese in her arms. “It’s nice to see the happy puppy dogs running around when everything is so intense and everyone is so serious. The dogs are very happy all the time. It makes me calm.”
It’s hard not to smile as Larry, the black Goldendoodle 'diva' dog, whose fluffy tail is rarely still, switches his hips back and forth like a supermodel on the catwalk, and visits each of the swimmers who wait for their turn to offer him a hug or a pat on the head. Larry turns in circles at handler Sandy Ludwig’s feet, before settling down with a sigh on her shoes.
“Anywhere there’s a level of elevated stress, we can take our dogs and try to de-stress them,” said Ludwig, Domesti-PUPS Event Coordinator. “These dogs are just lying there, waiting to have their bellies rubbed, or their ears scratched. We had one swimmer who spent about twenty minutes petting the dog,” Ludwig revealed. “Then she went and did her trial. She came back about an hour later and said that was the best trial she ever swam.”
As for gold-medalist Michael Phelps, it seems he missed out on spending quality time relaxing with the Domest-PUPS doggy volunteers. With so many medals under his belt, perhaps the old pro figured he didn’t need to relax. But we think it’s because he’s secretly a cat person.
If you'd like to meet a few of the calming influences from the Swimming Olympic Trials, join us tonight at SitStay.com for Yappy Hour from 4-6 pm at 4747 Pioneers Boulevard in Lincoln. A portion of the proceeds from the evening will be donated to Domesti-PUPS. And, you might just get a wave from a famous pup or two!
For more on the 2016 swim trials and canine takeover, watch video interviews here!
Aliana Rhys is a Lincoln resident who loves dogs and the written word.