Libby takes part in student’s psychology capstone research


A dog of all traits.

That is how one could decribe Cadet Libby, Wilkes’ resident psychological service dog who is also taking part in a junior’s psychology capstone.

Kavan Rai, a junior psychology major and women’s and gender studies minor, was assigned a capstone project by her psychology professors for graduation credit.

The psychology capstone at Wilkes is a two-semester study on independent research of a problem or question that intrigues the individual conducting the experiment.

Many universities believe that this type of study really shows the progress the students have made and helps prepare the individuals for their careers.

The Southern Oregon University states that the purpose of a capstone is “to help you critically reflect on, review the scientific basis for, and integrate what you have learned and accomplished as a psychology major.”

Here at Wilkes, it is madatory for each academic department to have a set course or courses that help the students gain hands-on experience or further academic research in their chossen field.

“The project helps with the process of looking into graduate schools. Many programs ask for experience in research, so I’m thankful for the opportunity. I’m a fan,” Rai said.

Rai decided to test a myth widely known by the general public: Do dogs actually relieve stress?

From personal experience, she said that her dog always makes her feel better and she looks forward to seeing her.

Rai added, “I know it works for me, so I wanted to see if it worked for other people, too.”

Rai decided that there was no better test subject for her study than Wilkes’ own ROTC pup, Libby.

Libby, a 9-month-old wirehaired pointing griffon, is Wilkes’ Air Force ROTC dog that provides emotional support for the campus and the community. She thought that using Libby would help give her a real world response to the myth.

Although at the time Rai had not been able to see her results, she was able to reflect upon her experiences with Libby.

While out in the field, she was able to see physical changes from her interactions with people and Libby.

She saw that the blood pressure of her interviewees dropped after confronting the puppy.

“It was cool to see the drops in blood pressure after encountering Libby. Being around Libby made others feel better, too.”

Rai said that using a puppy had a lot more liability than she had initially expected, but she only gained positive experience throughout the experiment.

Rai had to take into account that Libby was her responsibility and had to treat her exactly as she had been trained to behave.

“Working with a puppy was a lot of work, and I’m thankful for Libby. I don’t think I could’ve done the experiment without the help of an animal,” Rai said.

Rai stated in the end, even though it was more of a struggle to get her project approved, she had a very positive experience and would definitely do this kind of study again.

She had no regrets apprenticing Libby and would love to re-conduct the experiment in the future when Libby is older to see if there are any changes that may affect the study.