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2022: Sandy McConnell ’97: The Dogmother

McConnell and her canine, Homer, attend UMassD’s 2022 Convocation occasion to ease first-year college students’ nerves.

Over the previous 5 years, Sandy McConnell ’97 has educated over 1,000 canine, together with 20 for remedy and repair roles, like full-time UMassD worker Gracie, at an organization she based and owns in Dartmouth, Southcoast Canine Coaching & Care. Between every canine’s community, she’s in all probability made a optimistic affect on tens of 1000’s of human lives simply since 2017.

Want to make a distinction

McConnell has been giving again in a method or one other her complete maturity, becoming a member of the US Military Nationwide Guard in Alabama when she was 22 years previous, the place she first acquired a ardour for coaching.

“I joined the Guard as a result of I actually needed to really feel like I used to be making a distinction on this planet. I had developed educational coaching expertise within the navy, which I actually loved as a result of I used to be capable of assist folks enhance their abilities, and open up extra pathways for themselves,” McConnell stated. “After this expertise, I knew I needed to dive deeper and discover a profession in coaching, so I took up human sources administration on the Charlton Faculty of Enterprise.”

human useful resource administration

A level in human sources administration not solely teaches inventive, psychological, “right-brain” abilities wanted to coach and develop others, however totally ingratiates college students into the analytical “left-brain” monetary, accounting, and enterprise operations curricula essential to successfully handle a startup firm. A yr after graduating from UMass Dartmouth, McConnell wager on herself, beginning corporations in pc coaching, and later as a health coach on the SouthCoast.

“Getting to coach folks, no matter their business, job expertise, or bodily well-being, was so rewarding as a result of I used to be capable of assist them obtain their objectives and grow to be higher variations of themselves,” stated McConnell. “Finding out human sources administration undoubtedly taught me the sociological and enterprise classes wanted to run my very own corporations for the final 24 years.”

Arising on a quarter-century later, she stays her personal boss at present.

coaching canine

After 16 years coaching people, McConnell started volunteering as a weekend service pet raiser for the Nationwide Schooling for Help Canine Companies (NEADS) coaching puppies to help folks with bodily and psychological disabilities.

“NEADS’ service canine are introduced up by inmates in prisons all through weekdays and nights,” McConnell stated. “NEADS then asks for volunteers on the weekends to introduce them to all of the sights, sounds, and smells of the world they will ultimately assist their people navigate, and abilities like selecting issues up, turning gentle switches on, getting remedy, grabbing drinks from a fridge, getting assist, alerting to alarms, retrieving and carrying objects, and a lot extra.”

McConnell efficiently raised two canine for NEADS earlier than being assigned to Homer, the chocolate lab pictured under:



As a part-time worker for StressLess, Convocation, and Graduation occasions, Homer sports activities his personal UMass Go.

“Homer had some medical points that prevented him from finishing up some service duties, so I ended up adopting him myself,” stated McConnell. “Service canine must be locked in on serving to one individual in want of help, however Homer loves folks and different canine, making him a pure remedy canine. He is nice at comforting others and spreading pleasure, and he is aware of numerous enjoyable tips that put smiles on folks’s faces.”

Having her personal canine meant McConnell was not capable of increase future service puppies on weekends, as they want individualized consideration. With abilities in coaching people and canine alike, and after creating such a ardour for elevating canine to help people’ bodily and psychological well-being, McConnell based Southcoast Canine Coaching & Care, which has been named to SouthCoastToday’s “Better of the Greatest” pet trainers for the final 4 years. The corporate, situated lower than 5 miles away from UMassD’s campus, trains pet canine, in addition to remedy and repair canine.

Returning to campus

Sandy and Homer are common visitors on campus, becoming a member of assistant director of the STEM studying lab, Chris Peter and STEM “lab lab”, Gracie for “StressLess” days, organized by the college’s counseling heart as soon as a month throughout fall and spring semesters, and making particular visits throughout occasions like convocation, finals week, and graduation to ease college students’ nerves.

The “Canine Corsairs” from left to proper: Gracie, Homer, Kali, and Bonnie.

“Science has proven that petting remedy animals can enhance an individual’s temper through the discharge of oxytocin and serotonin,” stated Peter. “Remedy canine like Gracie and Homer supply love and acceptance to everybody. College students could be themselves, whether or not careworn, comfortable, or unhappy. They’re accepted as they’re, and folks instinctively really feel this mood-elevating interplay.”

“Coming again to my alma mater and seeing college students gentle up whereas interacting with Homer and Gracie is so intrinsically rewarding,” stated McConnell. “It makes me really feel good that I may help put a smile on somebody’s face. It is numerous enjoyable for them and for us as nicely.”

Gracie and Kali, one other scholar of McConnell’s, at “StressLess” Day exterior the Campus Heart auditorium.

College students interested by seeing “Canine Corsairs” Homer and Gracie on campus ought to hold a watch out for “StressLess” days within the college occasion calendar. Fall stress-less days are tentatively scheduled for Sept. 28, Oct. 19, and Dec. 6 from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm within the Grove, across the upstairs hearth and lounge. Dates and instances are topic to vary.

College students interested by visiting a remedy canine ​​on different days can schedule workplace hours with Gracie through TutorTrac. Go to the STEM Studying Lab webpage and click on the “schedule appointment” button within the high proper nook to view open appointments.

Canine homeowners interested by McConnell’s companies can go to SouthCoastDog.com for extra info concerning companies, charges, and scheduling.


Homer offers a scholar a fist bump at Convocation.

McConnell with Homer at Convocation.



Alumni, Alumni – House, Charlton Faculty of Enterprise, Date: Yr 2022, Departments Charlton Faculty of Enterprise, Options, UMassD – House


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