Campus Life: Therapy Dog Eases Finals Stress At UNH

May 8, 2014

Hamilton, a Great Dane mix, stands about five feet tall when he stands up to give students "hugs."
Credit Melissa Proulx for The New Hampshire

With a name like Hamilton, there’s little doubt that the big white Great Dane mix wandering around UNH's Durham campus belongs there. 

UNH Health Services’ new therapy dog has been 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.”

Hamilton, who is a little over 5 feet tall when he stands on his back legs, has also been helping out with other Health Services programs. He made his campus debut in April.

“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 him 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 Caplans, Hamilton has made himself at home. 

“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 visit students on campus and also participated in the Study Buddies program, visiting with students and other therapy dogs in Dimond Library.

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 Hamilton Smith Library building was built in 1906-07. Hamilton the Great Dane's name is just one of the reasons he fits in so well at UNH's Durham campus.
Credit Via UNH website

“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 and hang out with him.”

Melissa Proulx is a staff writer for The New Hampshire, UNH's student newspaper. You can read her full feature here.