- Associated Press - Sunday, May 17, 2015

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - College students in Williston looking to take a load off during finals week got some help from two service dogs.

The dogs, whose names are Elliot and Buddy, visited Williston State College during finals week, the Williston Herald (https://bit.ly/1IENH2G ) reported. Students were able to visit with the dogs throughout the day to help cope with stress.

The idea to bring the dogs to campus came from student life coordinator Tara Weltikol, who has joked for several years about creating a puppy room at the school, and was made possible by mental health coordinator Leah Hoffman.

Hoffman learned that having service dogs brought to a college campus wasn’t unusual after researching what other schools were doing to help students during finals week. She learned about Jud-based Service Dogs for America and started talking to them several months ago about visiting Williston State College.

The nonprofit organization was more than happy to lend a hand - or in this case, a paw - because socialization is a significant part of the dogs’ training.

Elliot and Buddy are in the process of being trained by the organization to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder. But Elliot also is being trained as a mobility dog.

Training service dogs is a rigorous process because trainers must follow Assistance Dogs International standards and guidelines.

“The dog has to be bulletproof,” said Shelley Nannenga, development director for Service Dogs for America.

The dogs are customized to the person they get paired with and are taught special skills so they can better assist their future owner. One of the last tests a service dog must pass is sitting still under a table while food is tossed at them, proving they can show restraint and focus on the person they’re charged with looking after.

The school will make a donation to the organization.

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Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com

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