While many of us might be stressed about gift shopping or planning holiday dinners and parties, many others are facing another type of stress. ‘Tis the season for finals, and many college students are feeling stressed about it. Not only is the pressure of finishing papers and passing final exams on their minds, but for many it’s their first time away from home and away from a beloved pet. That’s a great opportunity for Therapy Animals of Utah to step in and lend a loving, relaxing paw.
On November 30 and December 2, 2016, several Therapy Animals of Utah volunteers and their furry partners participated at the Pause for Paws stress relief event at the University of Utah College of Social Work.
During Pause for Paws, many students were heard gasping with excitement or squealing with joy upon seeing the therapy dogs. Students told us this is their favorite event of the year, that this was the “best day ever,” or that they wished the dogs could visit every day. One student from out of state said she missed her own dog terribly and was so happy to be able to visit with our therapy dogs.
One of our favorite Pause for Paws moments was when one student asked why the dogs were there. The handler explained they were there simply to visit with students – to help them feel less stressed. The student started to cry and said it was an amazing thing for our teams to do.
Science confirms the benefits of spending some time with therapy animals. “When we like animals and are close to them, our brain releases oxytocin,” says TAU Executive Director Deborah Carr. That’s a ‘feel good’ chemical that helps lower heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. It can also help students focus under pressure.
We’re grateful for the opportunity to share our therapy animals to help others. We’re scheduled to provide stress relief on campus during several dates in December at the University of Utah Student Services Building, Utah State University at Logan, Weber State – Davis Campus, and the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library at the University of Utah.
Please scroll down to see more photographs. All photographs included in this article are courtesy of the University of Utah College of Social Work.