Therapy dogs help ASU students relieve exam stress

 

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.

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.”

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Mon, 12/05/2016 - 22:47

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