The University of Rhode Island’s visiting therapy dog, Atle, returned from winter break to greet students on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at the Robert L. Carothers Library.
Atle is a registered therapy dog with Pet Partners, an organization that trains therapy animals to interact with the public. Atle was posted in the front of the library from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., where students could pet him, give him treats and watch him do tricks.
Lisa Rodier is Atle’s owner and handler. Since Atle was certified as a therapy dog, Rodier and her husband have been coming to the University since 2020 to support students.
“He has been moping because he’s not been here at URI,” Rodier said.
Atle spent most of winter break keeping active, from beach walks to staying fit indoors by playing fetch and other games with his owners.
“There are all sorts of benefits to petting a dog and being around a dog,” Rodier said. “They’ve been studied sort of clinically to lower your blood pressure and we like that it’s sort of a good change of pace for students.”
Atle particularly enjoys coming to the University because of the students’ lively energy, according to Rodier. Many students at URI enjoy his company, as they miss their own dogs at home.
“I think he’s amazing in every way, shape and form,” second-year student Ella Muniz said.
Rodier and Atle also distributed new business cards for students to take. These cards include the pronunciation of his name, “Aht-lay,” a new headshot photo of him and his hobbies, which include working out and stand up paddle boarding with his owners.
Atle’s breed is Bouvier des Flandres, a type of Belgian herding dog. Herding dogs like to stay fit and active, which could explain why Atle is constantly on the move.
Atle’s name comes from a Norwegian cyclist of the same name, according to Rodier. After she named Atle, she found out his name is Scandinavian for father. Atle is 12 years old, but is still active and friendly to URI students and staff.
Atle is not the only therapy animal at the University. Basil is a therapy dog who also visits students in the library. She arrived at the University in 2022 and has been working with Lindsey R. Anderson, the director of the Psychological Consultation Center.
Atle will continue to meet with students throughout the semester. His next visit will be Tuesday, Feb. 13. Atle will also be visiting during final exams season to help students de-stress. The full schedule for Atle’s visit times is posted in the entrance to the library, as well as on Atle’s social media. If students want to keep up with Atle, they can follow @bouv329 on Instagram.