Rescue dog trains to rescue stressed veterans

Wichita State students with military experience have a new pal in the Military and Veteran Student Center.

Riley, a 3-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback and Labrador retriever mix, is being trained as a therapy dog and will complete certification next spring.

In the meantime, Sarah Sell, director of the military and veteran center — who adopted Riley 6 months ago — has begun introducing Riley to students.

Sell helped open the Military and Veteran Student Center in Lindquist Hall to create a community and offer a support system for students with military experience returning to civilian life.

Riley is another part of that process. Sell said her goal is to have Riley help relieve anxiety and stress for veteran and active-duty military students.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks — also known as African Lion Dogs — are known for responding calmly to stressful situations. The breed was developed to hunt lions. Labs are known for their gentleness and intelligence.

Riley is the perfect combination of brave and gentle to serve as the perfect companion to students during a hard week.

“Even petting a dog acan lower your heart rate and blood pressure and give you a moment of peace,” Sell said. “That’s really important for our students who are coming in before a test or after a test that didn’t go so well. Having that experience to cuddle or bond with an animal is really helpful.”