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Colleges turn to therapy dogs to help students - Metro US

Colleges turn to therapy dogs to help students

Kathryn Formica and Jersey hard at work in their shared office.
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“Doggy!” This is the reaction most people have when a dog crosses their path. For years, studies have examined how dogs help people deal with difficult topics such as illnesses and grief.

Given this, It seems only natural that college campuses across the country would start to use therapy dogs to help relieve the significant stress among students that can build up as they juggle science labs, work-study jobs and writing 20 page papers.

Enter Jersey, an adopted Carolina blend who recently became Drexel University’s first canine employee. (He even has his own official identification card). With Jersey’s hiring, Drexel became the first university in the country to have an on-site therapy dog throughout the academic year.

Jersey can be found on the third floor of the recreation center in the office of Kathryn Formica, his owner and the coordinator of student fitness and wellness in the Drexel Recreation Center. Formica explains that she sees an average of 10 to 25 student visitors per day, but around midterms it spiked to 30 students or more.

“I was excited that he’s not in a library setting, because it gets students into our building to see the gym facilities,” Formica says. “They can see other alternative ways to relieve stress.” Dogs just make people happy, Formica notes in observing Jersey’s popularity. “Jersey reminds them of home,” Formica says. “He makes them feel safe and secure; he brings instant smiles and happiness.”

Here are some other ways schools incorporate therapy dogs into campus life: Harvard has a Shih Tzu named Cooper in their Library of Medicine, and New York University has had therapy dogs visit their campus to interact with law students.

So students, as the dread of finals approaches, even if your college doesn’t have a therapy dog, seek out your own version of one. Here are a few suggestions:

Go for a stroll. Head to a local park near campus and park yourself on a bench, Trust us, you’ll see lots of dogs walking with their humans.

Create your own private session. Find a pet store and pick an adorable dog to look at. That will get you at least 10 minutes of puppy love.

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