Bluefield, VA – As students return to Bluefield University’s campus this fall, they will be greeted by the newest four-legged employee, Hazel. Hazel, a white Labrador Retriever, will serve as BU’s therapy dog in The Center for Counseling and Wellness.
Hazel, owned by Dr. Jessica Sharp, dean and professor of nursing at Bluefield University, was born in Frisco, TX in April 2021. Following the death of Dr. Sharp’s white Labrador, Aggie, Dr. Sharp suggested the idea of a therapy dog to Emily Cook, Director of Counseling and Wellness at BU, as an added service to students on campus.
“Dr. Sharp brought up the idea since we work so closely together on the third floor of the Science Center,” shared Cook. “She thought it would be a great way to provide services to students together as well as help reduce barriers to accessing mental health services on campus. Some students may feel uneasy about coming to see a counselor, but it may be different if students are coming to see Hazel.”
“Her primary role will be to support students,” said Cook. “She can help them feel comfortable while attending counseling, easing any nervousness they may feel while studying, or providing a source of stress relief during a wellness event on campus.”
Hazel is named after Brig. Gen. Dr. Hazel Johnson-Brown, the first Black chief of the Army Corps and first Black female brigadier general. Johnson-Brown served as an operating room nurse, who graduated from the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing and joined the U.S. Army in 1955. Following Johnson-Brown’s retirement, she served as a professor of nursing at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and George Mason University in Virginia. Dr. Sharp attended George Mason University where she was a student of Johnson-Brown.
“All of my dogs have been named after nursing theorists,” shared Dr. Sharp. “I began looking back at all the nurses who have influenced my life. I had a professor at George Mason University, Brig. Gen. Hazel Johnson-Brown, who was awesome! I had not named a dog after her yet.”
Hazel currently serves as an emotional support animal until she is trained as a certified therapy dog. She will begin training in August with four courses in six-week increments.
“Her first class is Puppy Class,” said Cook. “After graduating from Puppy Class, she will go on to Beginner’s Class, Intermediate Class, Advanced Class, and finally Therapy Dog training.
“Animals bring people joy,” shared Dr. Sharp. “She will be a nice addition to campus. When people need a moment away from their desks, they can come love on Hazel.”
For media inquiries, please contact the Office of Public Relations and Marketing at [email protected].