UBC and Therapy Dog Program Team Up to Reduce Exam Stress
Yesterday marked the second annual collaboration of BC Pets and Friends with UBC`s Stress Less for Exams event. Last year over 100 UBC students signed up to spend a few minutes petting and playing with new furry friends. BC Pets and Friends is a therapy animal program which provides free pet visitation, on an individual or group basis, to long-term care facilities in the Lower Mainland. They screen and train dogs and cats and their people to interact with the disabled, elderly, chronically ill and mentally ill in an institutional setting. (source)
This was the second year in which my dog Michi, a seven-year-old male Pomeranian, has participated in this event. Last year my Mom attended the event with him, spending 2 hours entertaining the students. This year, I was able to join them.
The excitement on student’s faces was obvious when they got the chance to hang out with dogs of all different breeds and sizes. Many students were missing their own pets back home, and a couple gravitated to us especially because Michi reminded them of their own small dogs.
Kayla, who is studying Sciences, said, “I think they’re cute! This makes me soo happy!”
Mina, an Animal Biology student, remarked that “it was destressing, relaxing, really nice.”
Others students had only quick visits with Michi during their 15 minute time slots in the program, but had nice things to say to us as they moved on to visit other dogs, such as;
“Thanks for having your dogs here, it’s so sweet.”
“I’ll never forget today, it’s going to be one of those university experiences.”
Some benefits of the pet program for students include:
- Reduced stress- sometimes even more than human friends! We all know that sometimes talking to a friend can be a great stress relief but research shows that spending time with an animal may be even better. This may be due to the fact that animals love us unconditionally. (Animals are also great listeners!)
- Increased physical and social activity- even if you are not a pet owner, taking an hour or two out of the day to play with an animal is a great study break and provides a bit of additional exercise.
- Improved Mood- even just stopping on the street to pet a dog can drastically improve your mood! In fact, research has shown that pet owners tend to have a lower incidence of depression than people that do not own pets.
- via UBC Healthy Minds blog
Hannah, an Arts student, described her experience as “possibly the happiest moment of my college life, shortest 15 minutes ever! I wish 15 minutes of class went that quickly!”
From my point of view, it was easy to see the effect on those who came and went. It served as a happy distraction from the stress of finals week, leaving smiles on the faces of everyone who left through those doors. Michi and I are looking forward to visiting again next year, and in the meantime we can be found volunteering at a care home in the Lower Mainland.