ACC Therapy Dogs

Austin Dog Alliance Brings Therapy Dogs to Help Students De-stress 

Written Story by: Marissa Greene
Video and Photo by: Alexa Smith 

One too many cups of coffee. Deciding whether or not to pull an all-nighter. Spending more time on Quizlet than you thought one human was capable of. If you got shudders from any of those sentences, you have experienced finals season.

For the busy lives of many students and professors at Austin Community College, finding healthy ways of coping with the stress final exams bring may be challenging. This fall semester, ACC was able to provide students and staff a method of alleviating the stress that was both helpful as well as adorable. 

From Dec. 2 through the 6 therapy dogs from the Austin Dog Alliance visited ACC libraries at the San Gabriel, Highland, and Riverside campus to support Riverbats through their exams. In exchange for belly rubs of course. Quintana Roo, a chocolate brown, floppy-eared therapy dog and his partner, Heather Herrick, a dog handler and member of the Board of the Directors for The Dog Alliance visited Highland Campus for Riverbats as share the value of therapy pets in one’s life. 

The Dog Alliance is a donation-supported, nonprofit organization that began in 2006 in Cedar Park, Texas. Since then, the organization has grown to have over a hundred therapy teams in addition to a wide range of programs tailored a variety of services from veteran’s assistance, visiting hospitals, and even providing an outlet to reduce stress in places of education and/or work.

“We visit 350 places and there are constant requests. So it’s actually really hard to keep up because there are so many requests and there are only so many teams,” Herrick says.

Although this may just look like a number to some, members of The Austin Dog Alliance recognize the amount of people who are in need of therapy and may not have other resources available to them for assistance. For ACC student, Emily Weller, being a double major in video game design and English can be tough during finals season. 

“Not everyone can afford to see a therapist and so it helps to be able to let out your stress with a furry animal,” Weller says. 

Weller was not the only student stopping by to see Quintana Roo and Herrick that day. Whether Riverbats planned to go or found the event as a nice surprise, students bonded over their exams, connected with the Austin Dog Alliance, and even flipped pages through Quintana Roo’s book made by Herrick herself. Sunny Cole,  general studies major with a focus in culinary arts, opened up about the importance of recognizing that it is okay to reach out for help when having feelings of stress or sadness.

“We are kind of like a white-knuckle society in the fact that we’ll try to just get through this and don’t need any help. But the thing is [that] accepting help is probably one of the most freeing things that you could do.” Cole says.  

If you would like to get involved with The Austin Dog Alliance visit If you are feeling stressed, depressed, or having suicidal thoughts seek assistance with an ACC counselor. For immediate help reach out to any of these hotlines below. 

    • Austin / Travis County 24 hour Crisis & Suicide hotline: 512-472-HELP (4357)
    • The Williamson County 24 hour Crisis hotline: 1-800-841-1255
    • Bastrop County Family Crisis Center hotline: 1-888-311-7755
    • Hays County 24 Hour Crisis Hotline: 1-877-466-0660
    • National Suicide Prevention Hotline:1-800-273-TALK (8255)