When Troubled with Studies, Play with Some Puppies
Smiles were contagious this past Wednesday, as over a hundred Yeshiva students streamed into the Morgenstern lobby to de-stress with therapy dogs. Jointly sponsored by the Counseling Center, YU Active Minds, and New York Therapy Animals, the event showcased four dogs and their handlers, an outlet to relax and unwind before the stressful trek of finals.
As the lobby filled, dozens of Yeshiva students crowded in to hold and play with the puppies and dogs. A particularly large group huddled around 12-year-old apricot toy poodle, Kally, watching in admiration as she hopped and danced in circles. Like the other dogs and handlers in the program, Kally and her handler went through extensive training, learning the necessary manners and sensitivity, before becoming certified.
Director of Programs and Education Nancy George-Michalson described how “in general, dogs are used for therapeutic reasons, to comfort people, to make people smile, to make people forget pain and to give people something to look forward to.” In fact, even on a biological level, interactions with dogs have been proven to reduce cortisol, a chemical associated with stress and raise oxytocin, a hormone that creates a sense of happiness and bonding. George-Michalson explained that though dogs naturally have these positive effects, training is still needed to assure that the dogs are equipped with the necessary skills to engage with people and that their handlers know how to both train and guide their dogs.
An affiliate of Intermountain Therapy Animals, the New York Therapy Animals hold it as their philosophy that “companion animals, therapy and otherwise, are one of the best answers in the daily challenge of defeating forces of fear, hatred and violence in the world. They offer no criticism, no shallow judgement, just total acceptance.” This definitely rang true for rescue dog, Murphy. A maltipoo from Tennessee, Murphy had a whole line assembled down the lobby, waiting for their chance to receive one of her warm hugs. “I stood in line for twenty minutes,” said Yeshiva College Junior, Judah Gavant. “The moment Murphy wrapped her little paws around me though, it all became so worth it.” Stern College Sophomore, Carly Friedman, who came all the way up from the Beren Campus just for the event, felt similarly. “There’s something about dogs that just melt away all the negativity in my life,” Friedman expressed. “When I’m holding a dog, I feel loved and empowered, like there’s nothing I can’t do.”
Though therapy dog events have become popular on college campuses over the past four years, they’ve been supporting, inspiring, and motivating in many other capacities as well. The therapy dogs help in programs like R.E.A.D, Reading Education Assistance Dogs, where the dogs come to school libraries and sit with a child as the child reads, creating a comfortable and non-judgemental atmosphere for the child to improve his or her literacy and reading comprehension skills. The dogs are also often taken to hospitals where they help motivate patients to get out of their hospital beds and be active, walking the dogs.
Still, George-Michalson stressed the importance of having their therapy dogs come to college campuses. “In college situations we know there is a lot of stress in preparing for exams,” she explained. “So we bring therapy dogs into colleges for a meet and greet and it gives the students a chance to relax, to have that feeling of well being that one gets when around an animal.”
Co-President of Active Minds, Yosef Schick similarly explained that “while most students came to play with the dogs, they probably didn't realize the positive effect it had. Any fun activity, whether it be Netflix or playing ball, can reduce stress. Dogs are a great way to get away from work, and just have a good time.”
So when finals have you stressed and you think its time to fret, don't worry any longer—just find yourself a pet!!
The Yeshiva University Counseling Center is here for all students to help with whatever issues someone might have, including stress, and is here to consult with you on a confidential basis, free of charge. For more information on the Counseling Center go to http://www.yu.edu/student-life/counseling/.