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Therapy dogs help ASU students relieve exam stress

Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012 4:39 PM
Last updated 11:59 PM
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Augusta State University sophomore Tiffany Bechom’s plan was to head to a quiet study area when she got to the Reese Library on Tuesday.

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Mariah Swilling gets a smooch from Tobi, a Shiba Inu, at Augusta State University.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Mariah Swilling gets a smooch from Tobi, a Shiba Inu, at Augusta State University.

Stressed from preparing for back-to-back exams, Bechom was ready for another day of studying until midnight.

If only for a few moments, all that pressure was lifted when she walked through the library doors.

“I just walked in and there were dogs everywhere,” Bechom said.

About 10 volunteers with Ther­apy Dogs Inc. brought canines to ASU to help students cope with the stress of final exam week. All the dogs, from a 175-pound Great Dane to a bandana-wearing boxer, were there to be petted, held and help take the pressure off.

“There is something soothing about petting a calm animal,” said communications junior Danielle Pelmore. “I’ve been so stressed the closer I get to the exam. This helped me forget for a little while.”

The dogs’ visit was part of a weeklong series of events aimed at calming frantic students. Outreach librarian Autumn Johnson said the school is offering free food, coloring sessions and stress ball creation stations throughout the week.

The outreach is also a way to bring students to the library.

“We wanted to be trendy with the ideas but also do something students would enjoy,” Johnson said. “All this helps with dealing with people’s mental and physical health issues.”

Handler Judy Morgan brought Erk, her 5-year-old black Labrador retriever, to spend time with the students and welcomed them as they came in the library to study.

Morgan, a retired schoolteacher and a co-owner of a veterinary practice, registered her dog as a therapy animal. She brings Erk to children’s hospitals and nursing homes and watches how the presence of an animal can change the mood of anyone who is hurting or stressed.

“It lowers your heart rate, it helps your blood pressure and it makes you smile,” Morgan said. “Everyone knows smiling makes your heart feel better, and who doesn’t like a dog or a baby?”

The handlers and their dogs were all members of Therapy Dogs Inc., which requires its members to participate in at least four assignments a year. Dogs can qualify to become therapy animals through a series of tests that determine manners and ability to interact with strangers, according to the organization’s Web site.

Angelia Burley, a psychology major, was preparing for three exams this week when she took a break to rub her hands through the wiry hair of a Scottish Deerhound.

“This week has been beyond stressful,” she said. “I need to remind myself to stay calm. Seeing the dogs was great, but I guess the bad thing is I’m here playing with dogs and not studying.”

Comments (11) Add comment
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Farmboy
944
Points
Farmboy 12/11/12 - 06:05 pm
1
3
I don't agree...

In the real world this is not allowed. I think students should be made to deal with stress on their own. That way they learn more.

Farmboy
944
Points
Farmboy 12/11/12 - 06:06 pm
3
1
Just kidding

I think it's a great idea. Why not have some in a high school media center?

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 12/11/12 - 07:07 pm
3
1
In my college days

some drank, or engaged in nap time activities or lit one up, to relax ;-)

This generation hugs and kisses dogs???
W.H.O.

Riverman1
83438
Points
Riverman1 12/11/12 - 09:20 pm
1
1
Open Curtain, ha. We would

Open Curtain, ha. We would probably all be better off if we had pets. I was an only child and my white with black spots, Spitz dog, Prince, is with me till this day. It's strange, but I don't remember him dying.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 12/12/12 - 07:42 am
1
1
In our family

dogs are family members and pets, not our Prozac or Valium.

So this is something we'll disagree on, that's all.

patriotgirl
41
Points
patriotgirl 12/12/12 - 09:18 am
3
1
Really?

I love dogs...but this is just stupid.

doglover123
36
Points
doglover123 12/12/12 - 09:57 am
3
0
I could use a therapy dog

I could use a therapy dog at work every day! :)

Little Lamb
45764
Points
Little Lamb 12/12/12 - 03:39 pm
2
1
Quackery

Okay, we see the initial volley of medicine taking over ASU. I would like to see a scientific, controlled study of whether Tiffany Bechom actually gets better grades after petting the therapy dog.

Can anyone seriously call this program medicinal?

Jake
32488
Points
Jake 12/12/12 - 04:01 pm
2
2
The other side

What about students that go to the library to study who don't care for dogs? This business of bringing dogs just about everywhere is getting out of hand. I had a pet chicken as a kid so why not bring the whole farm indoors? Ended up eating the chicken without my knowledge.

oneofthesane
2201
Points
oneofthesane 12/12/12 - 05:32 pm
2
0
You cant please everybody all
Unpublished

You cant please everybody all of the time but you can please some some of the time.

McLeod
47
Points
McLeod 12/12/12 - 08:46 pm
1
0
Dogs

The dogs were not actually in the library. They were outside of it. They were only there for those who wanted to interact with them and weren't in anyone's way who didn't care to. Why be so negative? If a person doesn't see any benefit for themselves, don't participate. But if some enjoy the interaction and it takes their mind off their exams for even a few minutes, what's it to anyone else? Go about your business.

lochnanc
10
Points
lochnanc 12/12/12 - 10:04 pm
2
0
Therapy Dogs

I can not believe all the negative comments on here about therapy dogs. I participated in a "de-stress" pet assisted therapy program just today with my therapy dog at a university and was amazed and pleased with the response and appreciation from the students. There were about twelve therapy dog teams and yes, we were in the library.There was a time limit on the visit of an hour. It was one of the best pet assisted therapy activities that I have participated in and would like to see this in more universities.

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