If you’re stressed out about taking your college finals, you should:
a) Not study.
b) Skip ’em and try again next semester.
c) Call Mom and Dad for money.
d) Pet a dog.
Correct: d. Pet a dog.
At least, that’s the answer over at the University at Buffalo libraries, where therapy dogs are being brought in this week to give students a little respite while cramming for final exams.
After all, therapy dogs – trained to be petted, hugged and cuddled by strangers – are used to comfort people and reduce their anxiety while in hospitals, hospices and nursing homes.
Why not stressed-out college students, too?
“Aw, what’s this one’s name?” said Aubriea Francher, as she crouched next to the golden retriever.
“This is Hannah,” said the dog’s owner, Pat Quinlan.
“Hi,” said Francher, as she rubbed the canine’s ears. “Oh, I miss my dog.”
The Health Sciences Library on the South Campus first started bringing in therapy dogs during finals last year as part of Stress Relief Week. The three-day event is aimed at giving students a breather during the nerve-racking close of the semester, said Amy Lyons, associate director of the library.
The therapy dogs have been a big hit with students.
In fact, a recent Associated Press story reported that colleges and universities across the country are doing the same, as research shows interacting with pets lowers the level of cortisol, or the stress hormone, in people and increases endorphins, known as the happiness hormone.
“There’s a lot of really, really good research that shows just petting an animal lowers your blood pressure,” said Pamela Rose, a UB librarian. “They just love you unconditionally.”
Rose, who is also a member of Therapy Animals of Western New York, has long advocated that the library introduce pet therapy. Stress Relief Week was the perfect time.
Some 20 therapy dogs will visit in shifts this week at the Health Sciences Library and the Lockwood Memorial Library on the North Campus in Amherst.
Not everyone is a dog lover, Lyons said, which is why the therapy dogs were located in a lower-level conference room.
But by the time the dogs got situated Wednesday morning, as many as 40 students were already waiting.
Francher and Jessica McGarry were among them. The two stopped in at the South Campus library for some last-minute studying, but before they cracked open the books, they stopped by the conference room to play with Hannah and Max, a 6-year-old French bulldog, brought in by Jennifer Genovese.
“Dogs always put me in a good mood,” said McGarry, 19, from Dutchess County.
Vivian Chen poked her head into the room as well. She couldn’t get enough of Max. He reminded her of her own dog back home in China.
“You feel happy when you play with dogs,” said Chen, 24, a graduate student in neuroscience. “It’s like playing with small kids.”
The experience was a pick-me-up for Carolyn Dommreis, too. It’s been a crazy week for the speech and hearing major, who has spent several hours a day in the library preparing for six tests over the course of the past week.
“Everyone gets so stressed out about finals, so it’s a great time to get in some pet-loving,” said Dommreis, 23. “It’s relaxing, and around this time, not many things are.”
Emmanuell McBryde, 24, a UB junior, agreed. “This gets [students’] minds off studying, even if it’s for 30 minutes,” he said.
In fact, McBryde finished his exams last Thursday. He just stopped by the library Wednesday to play with the dogs.