What do college students and therapy dogs have in common? They need each other. When we are called to bring in therapy dogs to de-stress college students during exam times, everyone thinks it is just to benefit the students. Well certainly it does but it also benefits our handlers and dogs, the faculty and staff.
Last year our first invitation came from Nevada State College to bring in the Love Dogs during exam week. They realized the benefits to their students and the visit was such a success, other schools came knocking at our door. We have visited the Art Institute of Las Vegas and this week had two wonderful sessions at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV.)
All of the dogs and handlers are registered Pet Partner (formerly Delta Society) therapy teams and members of Love Dog Adventures, a Pet Partner Community Partner affiliate group.
We gathered a variety of breeds in the Lied Library and many people had never met an Italian Greyhound or teeny tiny poodle before. They certainly may never have met a dog with no teeth (my Petey!) Perhaps they always wanted a Golden and had the opportunity to speak with Boise's owner and learn about the breed. Or meet with Leslie and understand why Italian Greyhounds are not the easiest pet for everyone. Or meet Toni and Cricket, our wiggly poodle with the gorgeous haircut. Or speak with me and understand why adopting older dogs with special needs is the most rewarding.
Or meeting a dog like Benny, who was once a lost soul and has since proven to be the truest, most natural therapy dog.
Over 800 students stopped by to meet the Love Dogs. A line was formed all the way down the corridor as our wonderful coordinators let students in by small groups. We did not want to stress the dogs who were all in the same room.
The dogs took frequent water and potty breaks, but even walking them outside attracted lots of interested students. Everyone stopped for a quick pet and cuddle. The Library coordinators asked if we would have a special Meet & Greet with the faculty and staff and that was the highlight of the two days.
Initially there were naysayers who did not want to bring in the dogs. But after seeing the tremendous response from the students, and the stellar behavior of the dogs, minds were changed.
The health benefits of petting a dog has been well documented from lowering heart rates and blood pressure to
inducing calmer breathing and decreasing stress. But never underestimate the benefits to the animals and handlers. These events are team building opportunities for us, bringing together volunteers and dogs who may never have met before. They get to share their Love Dog experiences and de-stress themselves!
"Paws for a Study Break" will become a tradition at UNLV with a spring visit already planned. And we return to Nevada State College next week.