Colleen Dell and her caring canine

She slobbers and lets out the occasional snort, but her manners are spot on.

Anna-Belle is a therapy dog putting smiles on people who need it

Anna-Belle is a therapy dog. Her owner, Colleen Dell, research chair in substance abuse at the University of Saskatchewan, is using her pet as a research tool to help people with mental health issues and addiction problems. (CBC)

She slobbers and lets out the occasional snort, but her manners are spot on. 

Anna-Belle is a canine that cares. She's a therapy dog working to put a smile on the faces of those she meets. 

"She loves people so, so much that it's just a joy to take her out and see her interact with everyone she meets," said Colleen Dell, research chair in substance abuse at the University of Saskatchewan, and also Anna-Belle's owner. 
"I often say she has better manners than I do." 

Dell and Anna-Belle visit addiction treatment centres, senior homes and conferences. In addition to inducing smiles, the 27-kilogram canine relieves stress and helps calm the people she meets, Dell said. 

"The way I like to think about it, it allows people to become present," she said. 

First horses, now dogs

Dell needed a research topic for her sabbatical year. She'd done research on horse assisted therapy so she thought she'd explore the topic more, but with another animal instead. She couldn't travel because she's a dog owner, so she thought, why not use her own?

She's taking pet therapy and merging it with mental health and addictions research in hopes of finding out what positive impact dogs can make in the lives of people, especially those who have experienced trauma.

People who have experienced trauma often have the inability to feel or have positive coping mechanisms, she said, adding that you have to be happy, positive, and interact when you're around a dog — the dog demands it. 

"I'm not quite sure that us as individuals are able to encourage as much as bringing in animals," she said.

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