Internship offers unique perspective on power of animal therapy

A dog jumps through a lifesaver.

Preparing for a successful career

Liam Richards '18 shows Jack Driscoll, 7, how he trains with therapy dogs at Animal Assisted Therapy Services Building in Milford, Connecticut.

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iam Richards ’18 immersed himself in the Quinnipiac experience — developing practical, hands-on experience throughout his internship work in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The New Hampshire native gained tangible experience at Animal Assisted Therapy Services, which provides children and adults with physical, cognitive and psychosocial disabilities throughout Connecticut the opportunity to experience the unique human-animal bond as therapeutic intervention.

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“Working with Animal Assisted Therapy Services has been an incredibly enlightening experience,” he said. “Working with this organization has taught me how to go about helping people in different ways. It taught me how simple activities can help a person unwind and express themselves.”

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Richards builds a jigsaw puzzle with Driscoll.

Treating the whole patient

Richards' internship experience went beyond therapy with dogs. It extended into various cognitive and social activities — including jigsaw puzzles and music.

His classes at the university laid the groundwork for the successful internship experience, Richards said.

“Quinnipiac provided me with the tools to apply to real-life situations through the different theories and principles I’ve studied,” he said.

Chris Patella, founder and director of Animal Assisted Therapy Services, has been working with Quinnipiac interns since 2013.

College of Arts and Sciences

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Richards pets a dog.

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“I have always found the Quinnipiac students to be extremely dedicated, conscientious, eager to learn and incredibly reliable,” she said. “The benefits of animal-assisted therapy has been documented for years. The unique human-animal bond provides comfort, healing and companionship. The animals serve as a bridge — or conduit — to build a relationship with the therapist, particularly when the client has suffered trauma. They are amazing creatures.”

Jim Buccini, an assisting teaching professor of sociology and internship coordinator at Quinnipiac, said he can’t overstate the value of an internship experience.

Liam and Driscoll play a piano.

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“The themes and concepts covered in our department have real-world application and implication,” he said. “We explore social interaction, culture and an ever-changing society. Experiential learning is intrinsic to what we study in our department. We also encourage our students to explore a broad range of internship opportunities.”