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Dogs in the Dorm program improves service members’ mental health

Max, one of the two dogs who make up Dogs in the Dorms, sits among dormitory residents at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 2, 2021. The program gives junior enlisted Airmen a chance each month to play with the dogs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Tony Plyler)

Max, one of the two dogs who make up Dogs in the Dorms, sits among dormitory residents at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 2, 2021. The program gives junior enlisted Airmen a chance each month to play with the dogs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Tony Plyler)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Milagros Gargurevich, 52nd Medical Group clinical psychologist pets her dog Remi at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 2, 2021. Gargurevich and Remi both assist with the Dogs in the Dorms program, which is designed to provide junior enlisted members stress relief and boost morale by allowing them an opportunity to pet and walk the dogs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Tony Plyler)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Milagros Gargurevich, 52nd Medical Group clinical psychologist pets her dog Remi at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 2, 2021. Gargurevich and Remi both assist with the Dogs in the Dorms program, which is designed to provide junior enlisted members stress relief and boost morale by allowing them an opportunity to pet and walk the dogs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Tony Plyler)

Remi, one of the two dogs who make up Dogs in the Dorms spends time with dormitory residents at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 2, 2021. The program came about thanks to feedback wing leadership received from junior enlisted members who wanted to have pets visit the dorms. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Tony Plyler)

Remi, one of the two dogs who make up Dogs in the Dorms spends time with dormitory residents at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 2, 2021. The program came about thanks to feedback wing leadership received from junior enlisted members who wanted to have pets visit the dorms. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Tony Plyler)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Robin Cepeda Santos a dormitory resident pets Max, one of the two dogs who make up Dogs in the Dorms, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 2, 2021. The program kicked off in April and currently has two dogs who participate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Tony Plyler)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Robin Cepeda Santos a dormitory resident pets Max, one of the two dogs who make up Dogs in the Dorms, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 2, 2021. The program kicked off in April and currently has two dogs who participate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Tony Plyler)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --

The old adage “man’s best friend” is getting new life on Spangdahlem Air Base thanks to “Dogs in the Dorms.” 

The program is an initiative from the base’s First IV Counsel, born out of conversations with Airmen who reside on base to boost morale and mental health among junior enlisted members.

“As a dorm resident, the only pets allowed are fish,” said Master Sgt. Nicholas Conwell, 52nd Fight Wing Airmen Dorm Leader. “Many Airmen miss having their furry pets and it’s a great stress reliever to play with the animals.”

The wing’s mental health professionals have been an integral part in making the monthly program a reality.

“From a mental health standpoint, it provides emotional support,” said Capt. Milagros Gargurevich, 52nd Medical Group clinical psychologist. “Psychological studies have found that being around and petting dogs can help decrease cortisol and other stress hormones. I hope the Airmen get a little boost of oxytocin, the hormone known to make us feel good and loved.”

The program kicked off earlier this month, and the feedback was positive. The team also received ideas on how to improve the event, such as varying times and locations.

Chief Master Sgt. Stephanie Cates, 52nd Fighter Wing command chief, said this collaborative effort earned a lot of appreciation for a lot of different members.

“I’d like to thank everyone involved from our Airmen, for voicing their concerns; to our Airmen Dorm Leaders who take care of our Airmen day-in-day-out; to our Mental Health and Behavioral Health professionals who care for our Sabers and families; to our first sergeants and of course our pet parents who generously donate their time and energy to help our Airmen build connections and resilience,” Cates said.

Dorm residents can continue to expect a variety of notifications each month for “Dogs in the Dorms”.

Conwell said that a process is also in the works to allow service members stationed at Spangdahlem to include their “furry friends” in the program.

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