Shannon’s second career


Gunter Kleist

Shannon Carruthers

A familiar and beloved figure on campus, Shannon Carruthers, formerly BFA student Scott Carruther’s guide dog, recently had to retire because of her age — she will be 11 in May.

She’s not going far, however, having found new work on campus providing love and comfort at the Wellness Center, where she is available for her unique brand of therapy on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

According to Scott, the position suits her perfectly. Shannon’s favorite thing is simply “being at school, especially when she goes to the coffee shop and gets her piece of cheese.”

Shannon’s new career required specific training that enabled her to become a pet therapist. “We went through the training so she could visit hospitals as a pet therapy dog, so she is qualified,” said Scott. “It’s like an obedience course. They put them in situations like with loud noises, they have to be able to pass food, they can’t be scared by wheelchairs, they can’t be startled when someone walks up behind them, which a service dog is all trained to do, so [for her] it was a no brainer.”

If there was a hard part of the certification process, it was the food test. “For the food test, they put a piece of salami on the floor, and she had to walk past it and not eat it,” Scott said. “Then she gets a special certificate, and she becomes part of what they call Caring Partners, an organization of pet therapy dogs.”

Carrie Koniuto, office coordinator of the Wellness Center, feels that Shannon’s new career is a definite plus for the JSC community. “We have Shannon on Tuesdays, and she’s really just here to greet people, and anybody can just come down and hang out with her,” she says. “They can go in the other room and sit on the couch and she’ll just kinda lie with them. It gives them an opportunity to have some contact with an animal when they are away from home, and separated. With her being a therapy dog, she likes to cuddle and be affectionate so it allows them to have that bond with an animal.”

According to Koniuto, Shannon is a popular attraction at the Center. “I don’t have names off the top of my head but I do have quite a few students who have been coming down pretty consistently to meet with her every Tuesday and it’s definitely having a positive impact,” she said. “She brings smiles; everybody smiles. People usually come down and hang out for about 15 minutes. Sometimes they just lie right down in the hallway because that’s where she wants to be. We kind of just let her do her thing and students go where she’s relaxing.”

On top of that, Koniuto said, “She’s a real joy for me and a great joy for the staff. Staff actually come down and we get our puppy love too. I take her for walks around and people walk with her. She just helps make the students happy, and that makes us happy that she’s here to interact with.”

Senior Musical Theatre student Victoria Doughty, who has paid a few visits to Shannon, is a satisfied client. “She is just amazing,” she said. “When I’m sitting in the waiting room she’ll come up to me and let me pet her and it helps pass the time.”

According to Scott, Shannon is in demand elsewhere, making occasional Friday visits to the VA’s nursing home area. “The patients there all know Shannon and they look forward to when she comes in,” he says. “They don’t get very many visitors and it seems to make their day,” said Scott.