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 staff and faculty.
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.
This week we had two wonderful visits at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) in the Lied Library and everyone had the best time meeting the dogs and enjoying their incredible spirits.
All of the dogs and handlers were registered Pet Partner therapy teams.
We gathered a variety of breeds in the Library and many people had never met an Italian Greyhound or teeny tiny poodle before. They certainly may have never met a dog with no teeth (my Petey!)
Perhaps they always wanted a Golden and got to spend quality time with Boise and her owner and learn about the breed.
Or meet Toni and Cricket, our wiggly little poodle with the most glorious haircut!
Or speak with me and understand why adopting older, special needs dogs can be the most rewarding.
Or meet a dog like Benny who was once a lost soul and now one of the truest, natural therapy dogs.
Over eight hundred students stopped by to meet the Love Dogs. A line was formed all the way down the corridor as our wonderful coordinators let groups of students in by small groups. We did not want to stress the dogs that were all in one room.
The dogs took frequent water and potty breaks over the two hour session and even walking the dogs outside attracted lots of interested students. The Library coordinators asked if we would have a special Meet & Greet with the faculty and staff and that was a highlight of the day.
Initially there were naysayers who did not want the dogs in the Library. But after seeing the tremendous response from the students, minds were changed.
The health benefits of petting a dog are well documented from lower heart rate and blood pressure to calmer breathing and decreased 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 have never met before. They get to share their Love Dog experiences, thus an added benefit is meeting and de-stressing themselves.
Paws for a Study Break will become a tradition at UNLV with a spring visit already planned. And we are returning to Nevada State next week.