One of the new first-years at Van Hall Larenstein is attracting rather a lot of attention.
Since the start of the academic year, Heinrich, a black and white Munsterlander crossbreed, has been present in the corridors of Van Hall Larenstein in Leeuwarden with his German owner Anina Schroër (28). At VHL, Anina is studying the Animals in Healthcare major, while in Germany she is following a course in Animal Assisted Therapy. This treatment method is based on the idea that animals have a useful role in play in our communication with people with a physical or mental disability. 'I can use the dog with an autistic person, for example, to make contact or to see how they respond to the dog's behaviour,' says Anina.
To do this work, Anina and her dog have to be a close-knit team and well-used to one another. In preparation they need to spend a great deal of time together. Combining this with her programme at VHL has not been easy for Anina. As a rule, pets are not allowed in the building, let alone the classrooms, under any circumstances. 'This has been the topic of quite some discussion,' says Anina. 'As I saw it, I had only two options: study with the dog in tow, or don't study. Luckily, I was eventually allowed to bring Heinrich under certain conditions.'
Lack of understanding
Heinrich attends every lecture in Anina's company. 'I have a little rug he can lie on,' she says. The rest of the time, he's off the lead because he is not working while he is here at college.' Anina has noticed that a dog in the lecture hall can give rise to some funny situations. 'For instance, he knows exactly when the lecture is almost over and he starts whining, and that makes the lecturer draw to a close.'
Heinrich also lent a special touch to the presentation of the certifications for the Dutch language course. 'Everyone had to come forward to collect their diplomas. Heinrich behaved and stayed in his place as the students who had not studied with me went up, but he accompanied my classmates when it their turn. Perhaps he wanted to support them because we were all so nervous.'
The dog is attracting a lot of attention and with his Van Hall scarf he is easily recognizable to Anina's fellow students and lecturers, even though he sometimes loses it when he is playing. 'At first, some lecturers could have been a little more understanding. They could not understand why a dog had been allowed into the college.' But she thinks her fellow students do not mind having a dog ambling about the place. 'When walk along the corridor with Heinrich, I see them all smiling.' Karin Flapper
VHL's dog policy
A real exception is being made for Heinrich: VHL is quite clear about that. Animals are not normally permitted under any circumstances due to reasons of hygiene, animal health and safety. The prohibition has been waived in this case, but only under certain conditions. Indeed, a watchful eye is being kept on whether the dog's presence among lecturers and students causes any inconvenience or leads to complaints.