Photo of Dina Abbasian standing outside of the pet-friendly residence halls with her dog, Cecil.

W&J Senior Uses Pet-Friendly Residence Halls to Train Service Dog

Created: November 22, 2021  |  Last Updated: December 21, 2021  |  Category:   |  Tagged: , ,

WASHINGTON, PA (November 22, 2021) – Dina Abbasian ’22 came to W&J for its academically strong pre-med program, but she’s found her on-campus living experience to be enriching in ways she couldn’t have imagined. Abbasian, a chemistry major at W&J, lives in pet-friendly Buchanan Hall with her English Labrador Retriever, Cecil, who she is training to be a service dog.

Abbasian was inspired to train service dogs by her Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority sister, Graycen Vitale ‘20. Like Abbasian, Vitale lived in one of W&J’s three pet-friendly residence halls in Presidents Row while she trained a service dog named Zane.

“After Graycen trained Zane, she sent a picture of two puppies in our sorority group chat, one of which was Cecil,” Abbasian said. Abbasian saw it as a way to give back to society while enjoying her own unique on-campus experience.

Abbasian meets with a trainer four days per month and sends daily videos and pictures to the trainer of Cecil completing his weekly tasks. So far, Cecil can recognize anxious cues and will put his body weight against someone as a form of deep pressure therapy.

“If he sees me or someone else tapping their foot, he recognizes that as anxiety,” Abbasian said. “If you cry Cecil will lick your tears.” Cecil is also trained to interfere if someone is trying to harm themselves.

Abbasian is grateful for the recent renovations in Adams and Buchanan halls, two of W&J’s three pet-friendly residence halls. Several Presidents Row residence halls have undergone extensive interior and exterior renovations since 2019, including open and collaborative living space on the first floors, central heat and air conditioning, and upgraded ADA-accessible rooms. In addition to these upgrades, the summer 2021 renovations to Adams and Buchanan halls included the addition of dog-wash stations. All Presidents Row renovations have been donor-funded.

“The pet shower makes bathing Cecil so much more convenient,” she said. “Also, the rooms are large enough for pets to comfortably move around and play, and the counters in the kitchen are slightly higher than normal to prevent pets from jumping onto them.”

Abbasian encourages other students to take advantage of W&J’s pet-friendly halls, emphasizing the walkable, picturesque landscape that campus provides.

“The pet halls are right in the middle of campus, so you are close to everything,” she said. “All of the paved paths and grass areas around campus make it easy for Cecil to walk and explore.”

Whether you want to train a service dog or just bring your pet to campus, living with your pet is possible when you apply to W&J today.


About Washington & Jefferson College 
Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.