Therapy dogs relieve students’ stress

Photo by Annie Agee.

Sarah King
Staff Writer

Students stressed about looming final exams were put to ease with the help of Dogs on Call yesterday in the Commons.

The Center for Human-Animal Interaction at VCU collaborated with the University Counseling Services to host their “Paws for Stress” program from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. where students could play with therapy dogs.

The therapy dogs and owners who participated in “Paws for Stress” are part of the Dogs on Call program at VCU’s medical campus. The program was the first therapy dog program to be founded within a medical school, and since 2001 the dogs have participated in clinical and educational visits and research.

“This is one of my favorite parts of the semester,” said education major Molly Birrenkott. “Not only does it help me relax to play with the dogs, but it’s nice because they remind me of my dog at home and they’re all so comfortable around people.”

“Paws for Stress” is in its second year at VCU, and last spring more than 1,000 students visited with the dogs. The therapy dogs also came to the student commons before finals last semester, where approximately 400 students visited.

“For us it’s a real experience to get to see how well the dogs work with students to de-stress them and it’s such a unique outreach opportunity,” said Tori Keel, a social worker with the counseling center.

Keel said working with the dogs is a popular way to reduce stress and anxiety.

“Had I not gone on the visits and seen what happens with patients I wouldn’t believe it,” said Denice Ekey, the Dogs on Call program coordinator. “Magic might be overstating, but it really is incredible, and I’m so glad we can bring that to the Monroe Park campus twice a year as well.”

CORRECTION: In the previous post, The CT referred to therapy dogs as service dogs. The CT regrets this error.

1 Comment

  1. Just a clarification. The Paws for Stress dogs are considered therapy dogs, and not service dogs. Therapy Dogs are tested for obedience and friendliness so they can visit hospitals, nursing homes and schools to spread good cheer and reduce stress. Service dogs are highly trained to provide needed support to their owners who have some physical or emotional disability. Under law, service dogs may accompany their owners anywhere. Thanks for the article.

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