Support dog Ella provides calming tonic for students

A former rescue dog is returning the favour.

Ella, a yellow Labrador, has been working at the Otago University Students’ Association for the past three years, supporting students in need.

‘‘Often she will know if a student is having a difficult time before we do,’’ senior student advocate Dwaine Tait said.

If there was a room full of people, Ella would spot the one who needed support and sit at their feet.

‘‘She knows us and knows her job is not to comfort us, although that does happen.

‘‘She knows her primary job is really to comfort the students.’’

Student Support can offer students help on a range on matters - academic, financial or tenancy - but often the best cure for people was to spend time with Ella.

Many popped in to see her for 20 minutes or so.

‘‘Sometimes I’ll check in to see how things are going and they’re just petting her.’’

Mr Tait said Ella often filled the void of childhood pets, which were left at home when students moved to Dunedin for university.

Otago University Students' Association student support dog Ella. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON
Otago University Students' Association student support dog Ella. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON

Ella has done such a good job that she was a top six finalist in the New Zealand Top Dog competition.

The winner, announced earlier this week, was Rosie the Labradoodle, of Palmerston North.

‘‘Regardless of the outcome, she’s a top dog around here.

‘‘You can ask any student and they’ll tell you.’’

Ella is a rescue dog from South Africa, who moved to New Zealand with her family in 2019.

She had a rough ‘‘puppy-hood’’ and needed a lot of support getting back on her feet.

It was nice to think that she was the one who gave support now, Mr Tait said.

‘‘She’s really calm and has a calming effect on students.’’


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