Being a college student comes with a lot of stress.
It involves the rigors of adulting practically on your own combined with a heavy workload, cramming your brain full of facts, trying to have a social life, and managing parents’ expectations, all often topped off with worry about how you’re going to pay off this expensive education.
It’s a lot.
The hardest part for some students? They don’t have a dog or cat to cuddle with like they might have had at home — and if you’re a pet parent, you know just how good a de-stresser that is.
Enter adopted pets. Like Dakota.
Dakota’s outlook wasn’t great, reports WTNH. When she was found, Dakota was chained to a pole, awaiting euthanization.
But a local organization called TLC Sweet Souls scooped her up, trained her to become an emotional support dog, and placed her with Fairfield University in Connecticut.
Now, just as she was rescued, she gets to rescue others.
“Just seeing the dog while I am going to class or coming home from work — it is a piece of home and comfort I get to see everyday,” says sophomore student Olivia Stuart.
“Look at how much joy and love she gives to the students, me, the staff, and everyone. It is perfect. It is beautiful,” said nursing professor Carole Pomarico.
Multiple colleges across the countries are doing things just like this.
And with depression and anxiety plaguing college students in a pretty fierce way, this is an idea whose time has come.
A program at University of Minnesota, Pet Away Worry and Stress (PAWS), welcomes students every Wednesday afternoon to spend some quality time with a variety of therapy animals — dogs, bunnies, chickens, and more.
And that’s not the only program out there. Sacramento State students started a club called Pets for Stress, which also “borrows” therapy animals for special visits throughout the year.
The benefits from these programs are both instantaneous and potentially lasting.
First, the opportunity to be a therapy dog can sometimes change the life of adoptable pets in shelters.
And the benefit to students is worthwhile. From The State Hornet:
“It’s just amazing how connected a human and an animal can be. I can spend hours with them having a blast and feel less anxious or stressed.” — Sacramento State student Jessica Decoque
And Rebecca Johnson, who oversees the Research Center for Human/Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, says that studies are beginning to focus on how engaging with pets can increase a person’s level of oxytocin. As she told NPR:
“That is very beneficial for us. Oxytocin helps us feel happy and trusting.”
That’s why puppies can reach almost anybody!
Pets with all kinds of secret skills are just waiting to be found and give their love and support.
If your school doesn’t have a Pet for Stress program yet, ask a local shelter if you can visit and spend time with some animals. You’ll de-stress both you and the pets.
Could the source of your emotional support be just a click away? You can use Petfinder to find a shelter close to you!
We can only hope this idea gets shared far and wide and becomes a trend on college campuses across America. Students deserve to relax and connect, and therapy animals thrive on getting to do their jobs!
Warning: If you watch this short clip, you may be inspired to start a group like this at your own local college!