Founded in 2016 within the Office of One Health and Wellness at the University of Saskatchewan, led by Dr. Colleen Dell, the PAWSitive Connections Lab has evolved into an interdisciplinary team with joint direction by Dr. Darlene Chalmers with the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Regina, and Dr. Linzi Williamson with the Department of Psychology and Health Studies at USask. The Lab’s membership includes employees, students, graduates and other faculty who collaborate closely on various projects. Community members play a pivotal role in shaping the Lab’s research, resources and activities.
The Lab focuses on exploring interaction between animals and people*. We place particular emphasis on the potential power of the connection between animals and humans for individuals recovering from addiction and mental health. We study how pets and people benefit each other, and focus on improving the health and welfare of both. Our scope encompasses a wide array of animals, with specific attention given to service dogs, therapy dogs, emotional support animals, and companion animals, commonly referred to as pets. (*)We place animal first to counteract their subordinate role in society.
The PAWSitive Connections Lab, in conjunction with the Office of One Health and Wellness led by Dr. Colleen Anne Dell, offers various services to the community as a part of it's research program. There are currently seven initiatives being offered and all focus on the development of PAWSitive Canine Connections! These range from community programming through to on-line training courses.
Check them out below and have a look around this website to learn more!
This is a reflexive education-based program involving instructors, dog handlers, and prisoners in the area of addictions. The program was initiated by Drs. Colleen Dell and Darlene Chalmers in 2016 at Drumheller Prison in Alberta with guidance from Audeamus, Inc. The program is offered on a smaller scale at the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon, the Dedicated Substance Use Treatment Unit at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, and the Calder Addiction Treatment Centre. In collaboration with clinicians, integration of the dogs into select Animal Assisted Therapy sessions have also been offered throughout SK.
The goal of this visiting therapy dog program is to offer participants feelings of comfort/love and support on the USask campus. The program was initiated in 2015 by Dr. Colleen Dell in collaboration with campus Peer Health and St. John Ambulance. During the COVID-19 pandemic the program moved to on-line visiting and offering in-person support at vaccination clinics.
This toolkit was developed in 2022 to inform service dog trainers about recovery from substance use harms and the important role of peer support and connection for the wellness of dog handlers diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with a focus on Veterans. Veterans themselves and their care providers have also benefit from the toolkit. The toolkit includes:
Dr. Dell and her office work closely with the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog program doing research, including studies on therapy dogs visiting patients in a hospital Emergency Department. Dr. Dell is a Therapy Dog handler. Are you interested in becoming a Therapy Dog team? If yes, get familiar with the test and training video to learn more.
In partnership with the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program (SK), Dr. Dell's office has developed a full day online training course for therapy dog handlers and released it on Nov 3, 2022 on global One Health Day! It if free to the public!
The PAWS in Places campaign is sharing evidenced-based knowledge to raise awareness about the potential benefits of pets in the workplace, rental housing and others establishments. This is a collaborative effort of Dr. Dell's office of One Health and Wellness, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, and Royal Canin, a division of MARS Petcare (funding until 2023), and SaskSPCA.
Our Saskatoon Pet Friendly Rental Guide will be of interest to tenants (e.g., know your rights, obligations, and being a responsible pet caretaker) and property owner (e.g., increase your income potential).
In partnership with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, RUH Foundation, and CRISM Prairies, this initiative aims to raise awareness among service providers about the potential beneficial role of companion animals, in particular dogs, in their clients' substance use health. One of these supports is a dog's ability to counteract the harmful effects of stigma.
An online course for the substance use and allied hospital workforce to become animal-informed is currently under development and will be available in summer 2024.
Dr. Dell is working on exploratory patient-oriented projects in the area of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), with Dr. Erica Penz, a member of the Saskatchewan Respiratory Research Centre. They are exploring the benefits of therapy and companion animals in the health and well-being of patients diagnosed with COPD. Based on what they have learned to date, they are teaming up with the community to develop and evaluate a therapy dog intervention for COPD patients.
Dr. DeIl works and research in several areas, but one of her favor topics is dogs. Her team at the University of Saskatchewan focuses on anything and everything to do with the connecting bonds between humans and canines. Look around the website and follow us on social media to learn more @PAWSitive Canine Connections.