The AC Dog Squad has been a connecting point for the Algonquin community since 2019. Photo credit: Algonquin College

Heading into their third year anniversary, Algonquin College’s Dog Squad has certainly made their mark on the community.

The AC Dog Squad began recruitment in Jan. 2019. To date, they consist of 15 staff members and their dogs.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dog Squad members could be found all over campus. The most famous spot was the Student Commons in E-building where the majority of students could be found studying, on their way to class, catching the bus or stopping for a bite to eat.

Director of communications Tracy McDougall and her golden doodle, Monty, joined the squad when it was first starting up. She remembers a special moment she and Monty shared with a student.

For Monty’s owner, Tracy McDougall, having her furry friend at work helped her to get out of the office and interact with people on campus.
For Monty’s owner, Tracy McDougall, having her furry friend at work helped her to get out of the office and interact with people on campus. Photo credit: Tracy McDougall

A student approached McDougall and Monty while they were seated in front of the Algonquin Commons Theatre. The student asked to pet Monty, got down on her knees and gave him a great big hug.

“She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and told me that she had just lost her dog,” she said.

McDougall has been an avid dog owner her entire life. Having owned nine dogs in her lifetime, she understands what it means to lose a pet.

“It’s really tough – like losing a family member,” she said. “But, every single dog you have takes a piece of your heart.”

Amber Schuler-Toll is a coordinator at the college’s student learning centre. She and her English lab, Lexi, graduated in the Dog Squad’s class of 2020.

Algonquin College Dog Squad Assessment 2019
Dog: Lexi
Owner: Amber Schuler  Nov 09, 2019  (PHOTO: Jana Chytilova)
Dog Squad member, Amber Schuler-Toll, knows what it’s like to be away from pets while at school and understands the benefits of spending time with a pet. Photo credit: Algonquin College

“It seemed like such a cool initiative,” she said cheerily. “I thought to myself ‘Lexi loves people and I get to bring my dog to work. It’s too perfect.’”

Schuler-Toll knows what it’s like being away from pets while in school.

“I went away for school and lived on campus and it was really hard for me to be away from my pets,” she said.

Companion Paws Canada, a service provided by The Lifeline Canada, said that spending time with an affectionate pet can make us feel better.

According to the CPC’s website, that contact can significantly improve mental and physical health, as well as reduce stress, depression and anxiety.

AC Dog squad members brought their dogs to campus for the community. If a student was having a bad day, missed their pet or simply needed a hug from a furry, friendly face, the Dog Squad was there.

However, with social distancing measures in place, the Dog Squad had not been able to visit campus since the college shut down in March.

Never fear, the squad still entertains and attends events such as visiting classrooms, the virtual dog café for AC Day 1, and Algonquin Times Together. Stay tuned with what the dogs are up to on the dog squad’s site.