Helping you relax, profs’ furry friends

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Andrea Matthews ’11 was passing by the Main Green Tuesday when she saw something that prompted her to call it “the best day” of her life – at least half a dozen dogs, all wagging their tails excitedly.

Matthews was just one of many students who stopped by Health Services’ Heavy Petting event, which invites faculty, staff and graduate students to bring their dogs to help frazzled students relax.

Introduced six years ago, the dog-petting gatherings are held twice a semester. Yesterday’s event drew about eight dogs, whose owners brought them to enjoy the attention of students eager to pamper a furry companion. Students are not allowed to keep dogs in University residence halls.

“It’s a chance for students to take a break, and taking a break, whatever way you decide to do it, is important,” said Health Educator Naomi Ninneman.

“I love it, I love it. I can’t wait to do it again!” said Karen Quinn, a coordinator in the Bio Med Research Administration, who brought her dog Sam, a three-year-old golden retriever. He was a hit with students who stopped by the event.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Sara Hoffman ’11. “Dogs are definitely awesome for mental health.”

According to Associate Professor of Psychology Ruth Colwill, who researches canine communication systems and behavior, Hoffman may be correct. “Having a dog present in the room can have a soothing effects and reduce physiological signs of stress,” Colwill said.

Studies have shown that pets can produce positive psychological changes in people who interact with them often, she said. For example, some research has shown that pet owners are more likely to approach “stressful situations” as “challenges” to be overcome, she said.

“I think Barack Obama did well buying a dog,” Colwill said. “He is really going to need it.”

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