Along with hitting the Brew for a much needed caffeine fix or taking a break at Caffrey’s Pub, Marquette students will have a different option this year to relieve the stress of preparing for finals – playing with dogs. Health Heelers, a local nonprofit organization, will provide pet therapy to the Marquette community next week thanks to a co-sponsorship by the Counseling Center and the Marquette Student Government.
Marquette’s pet therapy sessions will take place Tuesday, Dec. 4 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Raynor Memorial Library entrance and Friday, Dec. 7 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Alumni Memorial Union.
Christopher Daood, the assistant director of the Counseling Center, said introducing pet therapy to Marquette students during finals week has long been debated in campus discussions.
“Many other universities provide this service to their students during stressful times of the year,” Daood said. “So we are excited to offer it this semester.”
Daood added that pet therapy is a special experience for college students because residence halls and most apartments in the area do not permit them to have animals.
“The Counseling Center thought students might like the opportunity to spend some time with a furry friend,” Daood said. “Hanging out with an animal for a few minutes might be one of the best ways to keep the stress of finals in perspective.”
Students will have the opportunity to play with the animals in the designated area for an unlimited time as long as other students are not waiting for a turn, Daood said.
Tara Vandygriff, a senior in the College of Communication and one of MUSG’s commissioners for pet therapy, said the total cost of the program was $175 and thinks two to four dogs will visit campus each scheduled day.
Vandygriff added that the University of Wisconsin-Madison has held this event in the past, and it received a great response.
“We are confident that MU students are going to be thrilled about this program and want it to grow larger in the future,” Vandygriff said.
Laura Hey, founder of Health Heelers, an animal-assisted professional dog therapy for programs including health care and educational and community needs in the southeastern Wisconsin area, said therapy dogs have been scientifically proven to help relieve stress and may prove especially beneficial for college students.
Hey said students’ reactions to dogs on campus is always entertaining.
“If they’re not expecting it, their mouths drop,” Hey said. “There are always huge smiles on their faces and I see a lot of comfort because it may remind them of their pet at home.”
Hey said dogs in her organization are registered therapy dogs which underwent a stringent national exam, testing their social skills, stability and behavioral patterns. She added registered dogs must be mature enough to handle situations like therapy sessions at universities.
Elizabeth Thalanany, a junior in the College of Nursing, said pet therapy can help certain individuals but that it might not be for everyone.
“I’m not really that much of a dog person,” Thalanany said. “During finals, I am focused and always busy, so I am not sure if I would have time to head over and take part in pet therapy by playing with the dogs.”
Nevertheless, she said pet therapy is better than other forms of stress relief like grabbing late night snacks or relying on caffeine.
“Playing with dogs could be the break some students need,” Thalanany said. “Especially for people who have a pet, it could remind them of home even for a little while during finals week.”