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UofGH students tackle stress at Take a Paws

Take a Paws

With the end of the term, and exam season here, it’s no secret that students are stressed at this time of year. But University of Guelph-Humber students recently had the chance to unwind and de-stress with the help of some furry friends at UofGH’s third Take a Paws event.

Hosted by Library Services, in partnership with Student Life, Take a Paws gave students the opportunity for a 15-minute break to interact with therapy dogs from Therapeutic Paws of Canada.

“We wanted to run an initiative to support mental health during stressful times for students, such as exam time,” says Valerie Benigno, Library Technician at UofGH. “There are so many studies supporting the fact that time with dogs and animals in general is so good for mental health. The fact that we are able to have Therapeutic Paws of Canada here on campus is a huge benefit.”

Paws-itive interactions

Diane Myers and her dog Mac, a six-year-old Labrador retriever were one of the dog-owner teams from Therapeutic Paws of Canada that participated in Take a Paws.

Take a Paws

“The Paws Room hosted by the University of Guelph-Humber was great fun! It is always so wonderful for the Therapeutic Paws of Canada teams to come together to provide some stress-free and relaxing doggy time for students,” says Myers. “I am always happy to see students come into the Paws room and see their smiles grow so wide! The dogs’ relaxing nature and unconditional love is shared freely with all the students. It only takes a few minutes to watch a student release their stress and settle in with the dogs. Even those who might be nervous around dogs quickly realize the gentleness of the Therapeutic Paws of Canada dogs and soon feel comfortable petting the dogs.”

When asked why dogs are so beneficial for mental health, Myers says: “I think it’s their calmness and their friendliness, and their non-judgmental way of interacting with people. Mac loves to meet everybody, and he just makes people feel comfortable.”

Chynna Lazaro and Mikaela Nixon, both first-year Psychology students, say they were having busy and stressful days, but that participating in Take a Paws helped them to relax. “We just got out of class, so it was really nice to come here,” says Lazaro. “It’s great to experience taking a pause out of your day, and that time to relax is so important, no matter how you choose to spend that time. If you spend that time with dogs, it’s even better, I think.”

“Before I came here, I was having a stressful day. We had a test this morning, but then seeing the dog puts you in a lighter mood to go home,” agrees Nixon.

Nicole Oziel, third-year Media Studies student, and Nisa Kirdemir, fourth-year Media Studies student, volunteered at Take a Paws, helping to sign in students, accompany them into the dogs’ room, and oversee the visits.

Kirdemir says it allows students to put all their stresses on the back burner. “It gives you 15 minutes when you’re not thinking about schoolwork, you’re not thinking about anything else except for seeing the dog and playing with the dog, so everything else is left outside,” she says. “It gives you a refresh and a restart, a new outlook.”

Take a Paws

Jamie Vergara, fourth-year Media Studies student, agrees. “Definitely, playing with the dogs is an escape from everything – even though you’re at UofGH, you’re in a different room, and everyone is so excited and it’s just uplifting. You can’t walk out of there without a smile.”

Vergara says that UofGH does a great job at supporting students’ mental health with a number of campus initiatives. “Having events on campus like Take a Paws is a way for the school to say ‘we’ve got your back, we know what you’re going through, and here’s something to help you de-stress.’”

Benigno says that UofGH is planning to host another Take a Paws event in fall 2019.