What’s all the Bark About?

Caitlin Ramos (left) and Siobhan Fay (right) with Therapy Dog Lola. Photo by Ali Lewis.

You tend to hear students refer to how much they miss their dogs back home, usually never even mentioning their own family.  What is it about our furry little friends that puts a smile on our faces every day and cause us, as students, to miss our beloved pooches more?

Let’s factor in what it means to be a student: endless amounts of hours poured into classes, extracurriculars, and homework, all which equates to extreme levels of stress that follows college students around day in and day out. So, in retrospect, a furry friend may be all a student needs to relieve some of the excess stress which is constantly weighing them down. However, not all students can take a quick ride home to see their dogs, but college campuses have become aware of this and have worked with the community to help students relieve some of their daily stress.

The Office of Student Engagement works to bring Therapy Dogs to the campus at least once a month. The Keystone Pet-Enhanced Therapy Services (KPETS) brings their volunteer therapy dogs to campus in order to provide therapeutic benefits for the students.

Therapy dogs are traditionally used to help people who face mental, physical, or emotional challenges, giving them a calming outlet of personal contact with a trained dog. KPETS typically visits nursing homes, hospices, schools, and special needs organizations in order to improve people’s demeanors. The dogs take manners classes followed by therapy classes for eight weeks. Ultimately, they are tested to be certified as therapy dogs.

Mirii Rep with Therapy Dog Mazuka. Photo by Ali Lewis.

Mirii Rep with Therapy Dog Mazuka.
Photo by Ali Lewis.

“[Therapy dogs] cheer people up,” said Claudia Varbel, a member of KPETS who occasionally brings her border collie, Molly, to campus. She also said the dogs are real stress relievers and that people always appreciate their presence. I then turned to Molly for her thoughts, to which she responded with rolling over and asking politely for a belly rub.

Not surprisingly, the general consensus among students is that therapy dogs are good distractors from their daily stressors and give them the opportunity to pet a dog before they’re reunited with their own furry friends back home.

Tori Simmons, a sophomore at McDaniel, responded that therapy dogs “have a calming, relaxing vibe and being around them makes you forget some of the stressful things going on in life.”

“[The dogs] brighten up my day every time I see them. Even if you’re having a terrible day they’re always so happy to see you and even a minute with them is worth it,” said pre-med Psychology major Mirii Rep.

It’s clear that therapy dogs have a big impact on the McDaniel campus, and more schools should consider having lovable friends visit to help their students de-stress.