Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Flynn invites student to "paws" for much-needed breaks

Australian labradoodle helps relieve stress and bring peace of mind and perspective


Hectic schedules, course work and exams can take a toll on students. At NAIT, a formally trained “wellness” dog named Flynn has helped ease some of the stress.

Flynn and his owner, NAIT student well-being facilitator Linda Shaw, are a fixture on campus. Through classroom visits and sessions called PAWS for a Break, Shaw has seen the positive impact of the Australian labradoodle’s interactions with students. The amiable pooch also takes drop-ins.

“Students who are struggling will come to my office when they’re feeling overwhelmed and just spend time with Flynn,” says Shaw. “It's a really great way for them to diffuse and relax. [Then] they'll stand up and say, ‘I'm good now. I can go back.’”

“It's a really great way for [students] to diffuse and relax."

One encounter in particular stands out for Shaw. A young man approached her following a session soon after Flynn started at NAIT in 2013. He was an Electrician student who was struggling with the coursework. One day, he decided that was it: in the middle of the lecture, he packed up his books and walked out.

As he went down the hall to leave, he came across Flynn and Shaw. “We started talking because Flynn is a bit of a doorway into conversation,” she says. As they talked, she mentioned support services available to students.

Following that conversation, the man made a life-changing decision: he went to student counselling.

“He found me [later] and told me that not only did he successfully finish the program, but he was even starting a new program,” says Shaw.

The student thanked her for bringing Flynn to NAIT. That simple encounter made a difference, allowing him to pause, reconsider and move forward.


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