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Jasper, HKUL Therapy Dog

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Libraries organized two successful Dr Dog sessions through a local NGO during the December 2016 and May 2017 Assessment periods. After the sessions, a suggestion was made to arrange a HKU Libraries staff member’s dog, Jasper, as a therapy dog. During the programme’s initial discussions, Law Librarian, Irene Shieh, suggested we take the programme one step further and create a Resident Therapy Dog programme.

It is well documented that therapy dogs can contribute to calmness and overall emotional well-being. Therapy dog programmes are being offered in many universities around the world and the Libraries hopes that this programme will benefit our students and colleagues in encouraging less stress and anxiety during stressful periods of the semester.

The Resident Therapy Dog programme planning was initiated soon after and Jasper underwent therapy dog training and testing. Upon receiving approval for the programme from the Libraries senior management and Estates Office, and the full support of HKU management, the programme was launched.

The PROGRAMME SUMMARY below will provide detailed information on the sessions, the interaction and the feedback. Overall the pilot programme was very well received with positive feedback from all participants. Though there are lessons learned based on suggestions and observations, the Libraries will carry on to tweak and adjust the programme to benefit HKU students, its staff, and of course Jasper.

PROGRAMME SUMMARY

  • The pilot programme was initially planned for three days (11, 13 & 15 Dec 2017) with three sessions each day at the Law Library. With the overwhelming response, three additional days (19, 20 & 22 Dec 2017), also with three sessions per day, were scheduled, with the last day at the Main Library. A total of eighteen half-hour sessions were scheduled during the two-week period for 78 participants.
  • For details of the two rounds of registrations and a brief timeline of the event, please refer to Appendix 1 Timeline infographics..
  • Each session consisted of four to five participants in a group. They were asked to confirm their registration for the session and were given an event tag before entering the designated session area. Each half-hour session began with Jasper and his owner/handler Gary greeting the participants and a few minutes of ice breaking, followed by petting, hugging, and playing with Jasper individually or in groups, tug of war, treats giving, etc. The session also included sharing by Gary on animal welfare in Hong Kong and about Jasper followed by Q&A. A library staff was stationed nearby in case assistance was needed.
  • Before the conclusion of a session, library staff helped take individual and group photos for the participants together with Jasper. These photos were then emailed to each participant within an hour of the session. Session photos were also selected and uploaded to Law Library’s Flickr photo albums and the Libraries’ Facebook Event page:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/134971573@N05/albums
    https://www.facebook.com/hkulevents/
  • At the closing, participants were asked to fill in an online survey via a tablet. A souvenir pack (library folder, information sheets on Jasper and How to greet a dog, Jasper stickers, bibliography) was then given out.

FEEDBACK & RESULTS OF SESSIONS

  • Appendix 2 gives a detailed analysis of the survey results. In general, feedback from participants was very positive. The participants generally agreed that the Event is well organized (98.5% for participants in Law Library; 100% for participants in Main Library), the timing during exam period is appropriate (97% and 100% respectively), the duration is just right (97% and 100% respectively).
  • There is unanimous agreement that Jasper is friendly (100%), Jasper enjoys being pet (100%), and Jasper welcomes interaction with me (98.5% and 100% respectively). All participants agreed that they enjoy Jasper’s company (100%).
  • For the environment (Law Library lounge area and Main Library 2/F foyer corner), 98.5% and 100% respectively agreed that it is generally comfortable. 98.6% in Law Library and 100% in Main Library agreed that the event setting for interacting with Jasper is appropriate.
  • Other comments: 98.5% from Law Library and 100% from Main Library agreed that they felt relaxed after the event, enjoyed a general sense of well-being (100%), will attend the programme again in the future (98.5% and 100%), and will recommend others to attend (98.5% and 100%).

OBSERVATIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Publicity & impact
    • The circulation of a press release in both Chinese and English, in addition to bulk mail sent to the Law Faculty and HKU community, had been instrumental in gaining public attention on this initiative. A Meet-the-Press was also organized for Jasper with the assistance of HKU’s Communications and Public Affairs (CPAO). With more than 40 reporters from the local media as well as from China and Taiwan (online) attending, the event was widely reported. The press media made additional interview requests in January 2018.
      Chiense English Total
    Press 41 11 52
    Magazine 1 0 1
    Radio 1 0 1
    Video 2 2 4
    Facebook 2 1 3
    Blog 3 1 4
    Total 50 15 65
     
    • During the pilot programme, there were concerns from animal rights/welfare activists/advocates about using Jasper and his well-being. Gary has addressed these concerns. Gary has also been approached to speak at a HKU Common Core course on animal welfare with a visit from Jasper in March 2018. Gary and Jasper will also talk about the appalling puppy mill farming in Hong Kong where Jasper’s brother Cooper was used. Given that animal-assisted therapy activities may not be viewed entirely positively by the community, it would be prudent of the Libraries to be wary of issues that may arise. Gary’s outreach visits to such courses is an excellent way to demonstrate the Libraries’ efforts in knowledge sharing.
  • Engaging participants
    • After the first few sessions in the Law Library, participants became more engaged and ‘connected’ as activities such as tug of war and treats time were introduced in addition to just petting and hugging Jasper. Some positive remarks were also received in respect of the souvenirs prepared. Recommendation: To make the session more interesting, informative, and educational, a session outline may be set up to include a brief introduction (e.g. how to greet a dog, what to avoid, etc.), story sharing, games with Jasper, treats time, relaxation time, etc. Recommendation: A unique souvenir with Jasper’s logo or pictures may be commissioned in future to help promote the programme.
  • Number of sessions
    • On some days, Jasper tended to become tired towards the last session of the day at 2.30 pm following his 1.30 pm session and half-hour rest. Recommendation: The number of sessions each week or each day may be reduced to avert handler and dog fatigue..
  • Venues
    • Most participants appeared to be happy with the venues and setup of the event. Though these were not entirely private, their secluded location provided a quiet corner where participants could comfortably interact with Jasper without too much disruption from onlookers. Some have also expressed a wish for going outdoors. Recommendation: The combination of an indoor venue with a brief period of outdoor walking/playing with Jasper may be explored, e.g. Centennial Garden, the Main Library roof garden, Education Library roof garden.
  • Sustainability
    • During December, the Therapy Dog Pilot Programme was held alongside two Dr Dog sessions in the Main and Medical Libraries. In regards to branding, this has resulted in slight confusion for some users. As long as Dr Dog sessions and resident therapy dog (Jasper) sessions are run in parallel, it may take more time for the Libraries to build up ‘brand awareness’ of Jasper, the therapy dog. Recommendation: Given the popularity of Jasper and the highly positive feedback on the Pilot Programme, it would be worth considering to make it permanent (subject to the retirement of Jasper). A Jasper LibGuides page with information on the programme, upcoming sessions, biodata of Jasper, video clips, and animal-assisted therapy references, etc. could be a good start to make the presence of Jasper felt. This is now underway. (See preview at http://libguides.lib.hku.hk/jasper)

Survey results & analysis

     

News coverage