There’s one professor at USC who will not be assigning any homework, quizzes or finals, and whose approval you can gain with cuddles. To sign up for his class, just visit the Engemann Student Health Center and ask for Professor Beauregard Tirebiter.
Professor Beauregard Tirebiter, or “Beau” for short, is a two-year-old hypoallergenic Goldendoodle. As the issues of academic stress, depression and suicide prevention have gained traction on college campuses nationwide, universities have begun to recognize the importance of mental health care for students. Keeping the students’ emotional health in mind, USC has become the first university in the country to obtain a full-time facility dog.
“Beauregard” means “handsome gaze” in French; this name not only recognizes his French background, but also refers to his very soft and sweet eyes, as people are always commenting on how his beautiful gaze resembles that of a human. The second part of his name, Tirebiter, pays homage to USC’s former mascot, George Tirebiter.
Beau earned his credentials as a facility dog after extensive training with Canine Angels Service Teams in Oregon. His handler Amanda Vanni, a health promotion specialist in the Office for Wellness and Health Promotion, said that his title as a facility dog differentiates him from a therapy dog.
“Beau was trained to work with all students in an educational setting,” Vanni said. “This distinguishes him from therapy dogs, as they work in more individualized settings with a counselor under more sporadic visits.”
Beau will initially hold office hours in the OWHP Student Wellness Lounge, located in the Engemann Student Health Center, available to interact with everyone who stops by. Vanni said that once he gets fully acclimated, she plans on taking him to different residence halls and events around campus.
“We hope that students will come to recognize him and feel a similar connection to him as they do to their own pets at home,” Vanni said.
Recent research has shown that dogs often have an almost immediate connection with strangers, making them helpful as therapy animals that can interact with a wide variety of students each day. Furthermore, additional studies have shown that dogs can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce rates of asthma and even increase the ability to socialize in the people that interact with them.
“Dogs help relieve stress simply by [students] petting them,” said CarolAnn Peterson, an adjunct professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. “Since new, incoming students would have a lot of stress, some place that is safe and soothing would certainly be welcome.”
Kirsten Briggs, a freshman majoring in civil engineering, said that she looked forward to seeing how Beau could help students cope with the difficulty of moving away from home.
“I think a dog on campus will definitely bring an element of additional happiness to this environment,” Briggs said. “I miss my dog from home very much, so seeing Beau around will definitely lift my spirits and be very comforting. It will help me if I ever get homesick, and it will create a larger sense of community.”
Sarah-Doe Osborne, a freshman majoring in writing for screen and television, said that she’s looking forward to seeing how Beau’s presence will affect campus because of her previous experience with animal therapy and its effect on young people.
“I worked with disabled children and noticed that [horse therapy] served as a huge mood booster and helped the kids come out of their shells,” Osborne said. “Working with animals releases endorphins that help people relax and encourages them to socialize. Besides helping with motor coordination, the horses gave patients incentives to work harder on their homework assignments and something to look forward to.”
While Beau is currently the only full-time facilities dog on any college campus, Vanni said that she is excited to share what she learns with other campuses that might be interested in pursuing something similar.
Beau’s arrival on campus was made possible by a donation dedicated to student wellness from the Trojan League of Los Angeles. Students are encouraged to follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @Beau_USC, or to visit him in Suite 203 of the Engemann Student Health Center from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays and 1-3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.