Chase, your friend in tough times


Nathan Kyriazopoulos

Chase, a new therapy dog working for NIU, being pet by students at the first Chilling With Chase event on Wednesday in the Counseling and Consultation Services office. Chase was employed by NIU to help students deal with stress. (Nathan Kyriazopoulos | Northern Star)

By Joseph Howerton, Video Editor

DeKALB – A new furry friend has picked up the torch for a bi-monthly mental health program called “Chilling with Chase.”

In this event, students can pet and relax with therapy dog Chase, a 3-year-old golden retriever, learning mindful techniques aimed at reducing stress.

Angela Kaminski, Chase’s handler and clinical social worker for Counseling and Consultation Services, said Chase is a fun loving golden retriever rescue that gives back that love in return.

The ultimate goal of the program is to allow students a chance to rest from the everyday stressors of college life.

“Just the calming effect that dogs can have on people. That was part of what really sparked my interest in having a therapy dog here,” Kaminski said.

In December 2022, Chase and Kaminski finished their year and a half of service training, respectively becoming a certified therapy dog and handler with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Chase’s new skills allow him to be at any venue without being unsettled and with minimal supervision. It allows him to be there for anyone to enjoy his companionship.

Kaminski believed Chase would be a valuable assistant in alleviating students’ stress. Chase was brought in at the beginning of the Spring 2023 semester.

In partnership with the Wellness Center, Counseling and Consultation Services is starting the Chilling with Chase program. Currently, the program is set for 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. March 22, April 12 and April 26 in the Peters Campus Life Building, Center for Student Assistance Room 150.

The program offers students a way to improve their mental health by meeting with Chase and the Wellness Center’s peer health educators to learn stress management tips to help them through their academic life.

Students may find themselves dealing with multiple stressors, not only from academics, but work, finances, relationships, homesickness and their own pets, all of this coalescing as midterms advance.

Bella Boccia, a junior human development and family services major, said students find it difficult to find time for themselves and relax.

“I feel like it’s very go go go. A lot of the time and we don’t get very much time to just kind of stop and just relax,” Boccia said.

One review by the Institute for Human-Animal Connection monitored the effects of canines on human stress levels. The review showed dog intervention reduced stress in humans, but variation of stress levels varied.

Activities during sessions with Chase include coloring pages and drawing overlapping patterns on a zen leaf. Certified peer health educators will be present during activities to offer stress management tips.

Sarah Moskal, health education coordinator for student wellness at Counseling and Consultation Services, said she encourages students to take time for themselves to pause and relax.

“The fact students will make the decision, ‘I’m going to go to this event because I want to experience it and I want to take care of myself,’ is a big step,” Moskal said.

Chilling with Chase is not the only event where students may see this furry staff member. Chase will be in 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and Fridays for the rest of the semester at the counseling office in the Peters Campus Life Building, Room 200, interacting in Kaminski’s solo sessions as well as her colleagues’ group sessions.

Student organizations interested in setting up mental health events can request Chase to take part, Kaminski said. Those interested in setting up an event can request a presentation with Chase at no cost by filling out the request form on the NIU Counseling and Consultation Services webpage.