University’s ‘puppy room’ provides stress relief opportunity for students

The Burlington Pet Adoption Center has volunteer opportunities for students that can help relieve stress. File photo by Shana Moss.

As man’s best friend, dogs are common fixtures in family homes as well as popular visitors in hospitals and senior centers.

Recently, furry little friends are slowly becoming the newest addition to college campuses, helping to relieve stress often put on students during final exams.

The fad came to light when the National Post reported Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, had set up a “puppy room” during final exams week in early December 2012.

“It fills a niche that people need right now because students are super stressed,” said Michael Kean, a Dalhousie junior who proposed the idea.

Student stress is the reason why Dalhousie decided to work with a pet therapy organization called Therapeutic Paws of Canada.

John Evans, a participant at Kopper Top Life Learning Center in Liberty, N.C., rides his horse Skip. Kopper Top allows children with and without disabilities to receive therapeutic horseback riding lessons.

John Evans, a participant at Kopper Top Life Learning Center in Liberty, N.C., rides his horse Skip. Kopper Top allows children with and without disabilities to receive therapeutic horseback riding lessons. File photo by Merissa Blitz.

Research has shown the health benefits of therapy animals, which is why creating a puppy room for students has become a popular idea. Even if students don’t have time to play with a puppy, just seeing an animal in the emotionally taxing atmosphere of exam time can be a stress-reliever for some.

“Taking a 10 or 15-minute time out from writing an essay or studying for an anatomy and physiology exam and playing with a puppy can help students, not to mention others in a university community, refocus and refresh,” said Gavin Jardine, vice president of Student Life at Dalhousie.

Other North American universities seem to have taken note and are starting to include canines in their student programs as well. McGill University in Quebec also brought dogs from Therapeutic Paws of Canada to help students relax during exam week. Pennsylvania’s Bucknell University offered a similar service last year, with students lining up for the chance to pet a dog. Kent State University in Ohio has even established its own pet therapy program, called Dogs on Campus, to help students and staff cope with stress, grief or homesickness.

Taking a 10 or 15-minute time out from writing an essay…and playing with a puppy can help students refocus and refresh.
– Gavin Jardine, vice president of Student Life at Dalhousie University

Though Elon University has yet to join in on this growing trend, there are opportunities available for students to interact with local animals — all while offering the chance to de-stress and volunteer one’s time to their local community.

Through Elon’s own Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, students can participate in the S.H.A.R.E. program, which supplies opportunities for volunteering at animal shelters by playing with dogs and cats.

S.H.A.R.E. works closely with the Alamance County Humane Society, the Burlington Animal Shelter and the Guilford County Animal Shelter.

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