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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

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Baxter, the SDSU Counseling and Psychological Services therapy dog. Baxter, the SDSU Counseling and Psychological Services therapy dog.

Behind the Scenes with Baxter

A look at the life of SDSU's beloved therapy dog.
By Hallie Jacobs

You've likely seen him, petted him, and probably even love him.

He's Baxter, San Diego State University's furry friend.

The 7-year-old therapy dog has been on campus for the past four years, spreading joy and easing stress for countless college students. But Baxter is more than an adorable animal — he is a licensed therapy dog.

Jennifer Rikard, director of SDSU Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), initially brought Baxter around the office to bring cheer to stressed out students. But after seeing how much joy his presence brought to campus, she knew Baxter was special — so he went through the process of becoming officially licensed.

From pet to therapist

Rikard noticed Baxter was special from an early age. The Cocker Spaniel, Poodle and Maltese mix's calm demeanor and social nature encouraged her to introduce him to students and staff at CPS.

"Baxter is a very unique dog," she said. "He has a special personality and people are really drawn to him."

Sara Treptow, a junior psychology major, met Baxter last year through Active Minds SDSU, an organization that empowers students to speak openly about mental health.

"As the president of Active Minds, I would definitely consider Baxter a major team player!" she said. "When he isn't making celebrity appearances on campus, sometimes he comes and hangs out with us at our meetings. The members are always happy to see him."

But Baxter's presence goes beyond puppy love.

"Therapy animals have a profound effect on people — studies have shown that they reduce stress, release endorphins and provide comfort," Rikard said. 

And Baxter's skills are in high demand. According to Rikard, Baxter's healing nature is so great that students ask for him by name in times of stress.

"Baxter brings joy to a lot of students, faculty and staff," she said. "One of our goals in having him on campus was to reduce the stigma that may be present with seeking psychological services. I think he has accomplished that."

A furry friend

You can find Baxter hanging out around CPS a few days each week. He also makes appearances when CPS tables on campus, and at de-stress events hosted by the library. 

"Students can make appointments with Baxter through CPS to spend some quality calming time with him," Treptow said. "Many other students have taken advantage of this opportunity. Plus, he is a great listener."

Baxter will be at the library for finals week:

  • Dec. 9, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Dec. 10, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Dec. 11, 9 to 11 a.m.
  • Dec. 14, 1 to 3 p.m.