Sophie Talbert

Photo courtesy of David Aranda. Canine counselor Sophie lounges on a couch, enjoying her new office in the counseling center at FSC.

There is a new four-legged addition to the counseling center this fall. Sophie, a 3-year-old golden retriever, has already made an impact on Florida Southern’s campus. 

David Aranda, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and the assistant director of the counseling center, has had Sophie in his family since she was eight weeks old. He decided to bring Sophie to campus in September because of the benefits she would bring to students. 

Research shows that therapy dogs and pets in general can help elevate a person’s mood,” Aranda said. 

Although Sophie is part of the counseling team, she is not called a therapy dog because she has no clinical training or official certification. Her only formal training has been dog sense obedience, which is a regular plan that teaches basic commands and how to be properly walked using a leash.

“She’s just a loving, calm, well-mannered dog that loves to give and receive love,” Aranda said.

Despite not having any certified training, Sophie still serves as a source of positivity for any student who may need it. She joins Riley, another dog who is part of the counseling center team.

“When I first met her, she was just so excited to see new faces and have attention,” senior Jordan Jones said. “Before I met Sophie, I would see Riley all the time in the counseling center and seeing him always helped me to calm down before or after a session.”

Adjusting to life with COVID-19 restrictions has been a challenge for many students, making the counseling center resources even more important this semester.

“I’ve been an RA the past two years and I’ve definitely noticed a difference this semester with the stress levels in students,” senior Daria Gill said. “I always plug the counseling center as a resource students should use on campus, and I think it’s really awesome they keep adding new resources like Sophie to make it better.”

Although all counseling appointments are currently virtual, Sophie is already on campus and is ready to meet new people.

“Sophie is taking this semester to get used to the counseling center and people coming in and out,” Aranda said. “Once restrictions are lifted for face to face contact, she’ll be able to attend outreach gatherings and be more available.”

Right now, Sophie is only available during counseling sessions with David Aranda, but all students who come into the counseling center or see her around campus are welcome to pet her and say hello. To make an appointment with the counseling center, students can call the main office at (863) 680-6236.

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