by Caroline Golon
At the recent U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Neb., the athletes employed all types of tactics to keep calm and perform at their best, including snugging with friendly dogs!
According to NY Daily News, this year, USA Swimming brought in 30 therapy dogs to help swimmers de-stress before their races. The group partnered with Domesti-PUPS, which is a Lincoln, Nebraska-based nonprofit organization that provides therapy dogs for a variety of organizations and events.
At the trials, the stress was high for the nearly 1,700 swimmers from across the nation. The high-stakes event determined the American team for the Rio Olympic games but also gave other top swimmers a chance to experience the highly competitive atmosphere of the trials.
Morgan Weinberg, program and services manager for USA Swimming told NY Daily News that she was looking for something to help the swimmers while they were there. A dog lover herself, she immediately thought of relaxation in the form of wagging tails and soft bellies.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done it,” she explained. “I like dogs, I thought about dogs, and it just kind of evolved into therapy dogs.”
Domesti-PUPS set up at the athletes lounge at CenturyLink Center, where the dogs were happily available to cuddle, play or simply sit and be petted by the swimmers.
The program was a big success!
One swimmer who spent 20 minutes with a dog right before her race, returned later to report that she’d just had the best swim she’d ever had because she was so relaxed when she jumped in the pool.
Kacey Oberlander, who will be attending the University of Alabama in the fall, agrees that the dogs make a difference. “It’s nice to see the happy puppy dogs running around when everything is so intense and everyone’s so serious,” she told NY Daily News. “The dogs are very happy all the time. It makes me calm.”
Many swimmers, like Oberlander, miss their own dogs. The therapy dogs, for a few days at least, filled in the fluffy void. Oberlander told NY Daily News how much she missed her miniature dachshunds, Biscuit and Bella. “I miss them soooo much,” Oberlander said. “When I come in here and see the dogs, it’s just like home.”