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Therapy Dogs Relieve Student Stress

Pet Therapy
Stony Brook students petting Beau, a border collie mix rescued from Southampton Animal Shelter.

Twenty-year-old Yash Mathur ’19 never imagined that a dog could make such a difference to his semester.

But there he was on December 6, smack in the middle of final exam season, relaxing with a golden retriever named Wilbert, who lay there, belly exposed, just begging to be scratched.

“I really enjoy Pet Therapy Day and come every time Stony Brook has it. The dogs are so friendly and nice, and it makes me feel good just to be around them,” said Mathur, a computer science major in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Dozens of Stony Brook students like him flocked to Frank Melville Jr. Library to meet some furry friends and perhaps alleviate some of the stress brought on by finals and end-of-semester assignments. The event happens monthly on campus.

Stony Brook’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), based on campus, holds PALS, Pet Away Life Stress, an animal assisted program that brings trained therapy dogs to Stony Brook University students to assist in managing stress. The program, which facilitates interaction between people and dogs, provides comfort for people.

The trained and certified therapy dogs have a lasting positive impact on the students. One of the therapy dogs, Sophie, a golden retriever has been making students smile year after year.

“We remain thrilled at being able to have started this program for our Stony Brook campus community and we look forward to its continued growth and development,” said Jennifer Penn, CAPS Triage Counselor. “The thousands of smiles that this program brings to our university community are priceless.”

Pet Therapy
Beau shows affection and gives comfort to students

The event offers students a chance to take a break from their regular studying and relieve crunch-time stress. The dogs, who normally visit organizations on Long Island, such as schools, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, seemed to enjoy the break from their routine as well.

Sammie, a Newfoundland, regularly visits St. Catherine’s Nursing Home in Smithtown, NY,  and is also part of the Doggie Reading Club, a specialized program that is part of PRAAT (Patchogue Rotary Animal Assisted Therapy) designed to help children develop their reading skills. The children are shown to be more comfortable reading aloud when Sammie is in their presence.

“It is a fun break from working on final papers and I really enjoyed it because I miss my dog,” said 25-year-old Christian Eylers ’18, a business management major in the College of Business whose dog passed away seven months ago. “Often when people go away to college they leave their pets behind and it makes them sad. But this event gives comfort and reminds me of all the happy times I had with my dog.”

In addition to serving as natural stress reliever, the dogs were a welcome break for many students from the routine of books and notes

“After coming here I feel more at ease especially since I have to go do a project right now,” said Betty Bruce ’20 after petting Beau, a border collie mix rescued from Southampton Animal Shelter, in Hampton Bays, NY.

— Suzanne Mobyed

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