Written by Emily Morgan
Babytalk isn’t usually what a person expects when they go to McKee Library. Yet, when a student sees the tiny Lowchen dog Atreyu in a baby stroller, the response is almost automatic.
Atreyu is a therapy dog employed by the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. According to the McKee Library website, the library partners with the business and another one called Therapy Dogs International to provide students with therapy dog visits throughout the academic year. According to Sharen Fisher, Atreyu’s human partner, during the 2020 school year, therapy dog visits halted.
“When COVID came, my other dog who’d been coming here since May  was beside him[self],” Fisher said. “He chased me around the house when it was time to get ready to go. He knew his schedule, and he knew when he was coming here.”
Excluding 2020, Fisher and her canine partners have been regularly coming to McKee Library since May 2015. She said Atreyu is very social and has no preference for what kind of people he likes.
“I think [Atreyu] likes everybody,” Fisher said.
Therapy dogs are born, not made, she added.
“I have had [dog handlers] tell me, they went into [therapy situations in nursing homes] and their dog just curled up in a ball and shook,” Fisher said.
Fisher told of an experience with a student on Southern’s campus that stuck with her.
“I had one young man from California. My other dog was a Wheaten Terrier, and [the young man] had two Wheaten Terriers at home. And [the young man] says, ‘Oh, I so miss my dogs!’” Fisher said. “The excitement from the students; you can just see them go ‘exhale.’”
Fisher said she loves coming to Southern because the students are so genuine.
“I was getting ready to leave, and I was at my car and [a student] goes, ‘Wait, wait!’ She comes running out; she hands me a card. She wrote me a card to thank me for bringing the therapy dog in,” Fisher said. “ … So yes, it’s just fun to see the students interact and get relaxed and turn around and go back to their work. And it’s like they have new color in their face, [and] they just look better.”
The next three therapy dog visits are scheduled for Feb. 23 at 11:30 a.m., March 7 at 1 p.m and March 21 at 1 p.m. More information on the therapy dog visits and scheduled dates are available on the McKee Library website. To contact and learn more about Atreyu, visit his instagram at atreyu_lowchen.