Petting the stress away

(Photo by Nick Lachance).

The geese of Wilfird Laurier University might have to share their home on campus with more animals this upcoming year.

In an attempt to curb high stress levels of students during midterm and exam season, Chris Hyde, interim general manager of the Wilfrid Laurier Studets’ Union (WLUSU) has pitched the idea to bring in therapy dogs for students to interact with.

“The idea is still in its infancy,” Hyde explained. “But people have started to look at the effects that pets have on people, [and] when they do respond to pets they have a decrease in cortisol and an increase in endorphins, so stress goes down and happiness goes up.”

According to Hyde, therapy dogs are already being used in similar situations at different institutions across both Canada and the United States, such as Yale, Harvard,

McGill, and the University of Ottawa. If the plan goes through at Laurier, it will follow the same outline as these pre-existing programs.

“We have to incorporate a bunch of things, but it is definitely something that we would love to have; we just want to make sure that it will work for all parties,” stated Hyde.     “[The dogs] would probably be inside so they are accessible to students, but they would have to be in a place and section of campus that was accessible but not open.”

Hyde emphasized that finding a prime location for the dogs would be difficult not only because space on campus is limited, but because the location of the dogs would have to appease all parties.

If the program does go through, which according to Hyde will hopefully be by the end of this coming semester, students will be able to play with the dog on an ad-hoc basis.

If, however, demand for the dog are high, it will turn into a booking system, which is the model in place at other institutions. During the beginning of the program, the plan is to have the dogs available only during high-stress periods. However, Hyde explained that depending on the response of the students, that plan could change.

If demand was there, I could see it becoming an important part of the university community,” he added.

Hyde concluded by stating that while the logistics of the plan are still being debated, he hopes it will be put into place sooner than later, and be well received.

“The program, really, is to provide benefits to the students,”asserted Hyde.

Who wouldn’t love to play with a dog on campus?

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