School of Nursing students have been greeted by a new, furry face this semester. Assistant Professor of Nursing Carole Pomarico, who is also the Adult Program Director for the School of Nursing, has welcomed an emotional support dog to the program named Dakota.

“I was reading online that there are many schools that bring in comfort dogs for the students, but they only bring them in for events. So I decided, ‘I’m going to try Dakota,’” said Pomarico.

Dakota quickly proved herself to be a great candidate for the job.

According to the News@Fairfield, Pomarico first brought Dakota in to the School of Nursing in July to see how she would react to spending time with students. After bringing Dakota to a nursing class that was held in July, Pomarico noticed that Dakota responded like a “seasoned veteran,” walking up and down the aisles of students to “greet” them.

Pomarico said, “Her personality is so calm and sweet. She’s very smart. She was a perfect lady. She went to class, doesn’t jump, doesn’t bark. She’s just very calm.”

The process of introducing Dakota to campus was relatively simple.

“I registered her as an emotional support dog through the registry, and I got her certified, which took no training. She’s going to dog therapy school, which does take training, but that’s next,” Pomarico said.  

Pomarico continued, “I asked permission from [Dean Meredith Kazer of the School of Nursing] and she said yes. I told Public Safety, and they had no problem with it; and I checked with Sue Birge, director of Counseling, and they have no trouble with it.”

Students and staff have quickly responded to Dakota’s entrance to the program, often stopping by Dakota’s “office” (a dog bed underneath Pomarico’s desk) to spend time relaxing with her.

“Student responses have been perfect. When students come and see Dakota, or she walks down the hall, everyone smiles. You can’t help but smile. She just goes and greets you, sits down, gives you doggy kisses, accepts hugs and is just great,” says Pomarico about the students’ interactions with Dakota.

Students agree that seeing Dakota’s friendly face around campus makes the day better.

“Just seeing the dog while I am going to class or coming home from work — it is a piece of home and comfort I get to see everyday,” said Olivia Stuart ‘18 to WTNH News 8.

Sophomore Jaclyn DiYeso feels that the nursing program can be overwhelming, and believes the addition of Dakota can be a positive addition to Fairfield.

“I think many of the students, including myself, put a lot of pressure on ourselves to meet the expectations of the program. The addition of the emotional support dog, in my opinion, is a very great way to build a community of support — to give myself and my fellow classmates a way to relieve our stress and take our minds off of our school work for a minute,” said DiYeso.

Dakota currently has “office hours” in the School of Nursing every Tuesday and Thursday, but as the semester goes on, Pomarico hopes to be able to include her more regularly to campus after she completes her training at dog therapy school.

Once that training is complete, Dakota will be able to attend Fairfield University health fairs and other events on campus to spend time with other Fairfield students, according to News@Fairfield.

Pomarico feels optimistic about Dakota’s work at Fairfield, and is hopeful for the impact she’s providing for students.

“We’ve gone for walks on campus, and students who are not nursing students stop and greet her, and she greets them. Everybody wears a smile after they meet Dakota.

So far, it’s been a positive experience, and we hope that it continues.”

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