Lucy relaxes after running around on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Stabler Arena. Lucy is a therapy dog and the newest addition to the Lehigh women's basketball team. (Austin Clibanoff/B&W Staff)

A shot in the bark: Women’s basketball team gets a therapy dog

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The women’s basketball team welcomed its newest member at the beginning of this year, and she wasn’t your typical basketball player. Lucy isn’t an athlete or even a student at Lehigh. 

She’s a golden retriever.

As a freshman, Olivia Dahlgren wanted to be involved in some type of way on campus. She wasn’t in a sorority, she wasn’t an athlete, but she wanted to contribute to the Lehigh athletic program. She approached women’s basketball head coach Sue Troyan, who she knows from her hometown, and decided to become the women’s basketball manager.

Now a sophomore, Dahlgren wanted to give back to the Lehigh athletic community in an even greater way. When she came across an article about the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill baseball teams’ therapy dog, it instantly clicked for her.

As a pre-med student, Dahlgren searched for a project that could give her both experience in the medical field and benefiting others, and bringing a therapy dog to Lehigh would do just that.

When Dahlgren first approached Troyan to ask if the idea was possible, Troyan said she had never worked with a therapy dog before, but would go through with the process and hoped it would work out.

From left, junior guard Camryn Buhr and Olivia Dahlgren, ’21, sit at center court with Lucy before the women’s basketball team’s
practice on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Stabler Arena. Lucy is a therapy dog and the newest addition to the women’s basketball team. (Austin Clibanoff/B&W Staff)

After running the idea by Housing Services, the athletic director and other university personnel, Dahlgren got the go-ahead. She contacted Honor Service Dogs, a breeder in Charlotte, North Carolina, who told her it would get a litter in April. The timing was perfect.

When Dahlgren arrived on campus with Lucy, she began gradually introducing the dog to the players on the team, and all of them instantly felt a connection with the dog. Junior Camryn Buhr also shares that same passion for dogs that Dahlgren has.

“It’s so nice to have Lucy there as a stress reliever, and an outlet for all the players,” Buhr said. “We love having her at practices and games.”

Lucy provides the team with much more than a companion. Her goal is to support all athletes who have been injured, even those not on the women’s basketball team. 

“Hopefully in the future, other teams will be able to benefit from Lucy like we can,” Troyan said.

Lucy is always in and around the athletic department, lifting the coach’s spirits.

“You can really see the mood change when Lucy is around, she brightens everyone’s day,” Troyan said.

Over this past summer, Dahlgren brought Lucy to Junior Alex Motley, a football player who had hurt himself last season.

“Lucy just knows when people aren’t feeling well, she does whatever she can to make them feel better,” Dahlgren said.

Troyan hopes to someday use Lucy’s talents for every athletic team at Lehigh and even open up the athletic department to bringing in more therapy dogs. Troyan said Lehigh is such a high-stress environment, therapy dogs could be helpful in all areas of student life. 

Dahlgren is happy with her decision to bring Lucy onto the team and carve a path for a better athletic program that may someday include more therapy dogs.

“I want to leave my mark on the university, so many people here have done amazing things for me, and I just want to give back,” Dahlgren said.

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