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Therapy dogs to the rescue

Studies have documented that interacting with a dog lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and boosts energy levels. Photo: Douglas Levere

By MARCENE ROBINSON

Published May 1, 2015

“There is no better remedy for anxiety and stress than the friendly face of a therapy dog.”
Pamela Rose, co-founder
UB Libraries Stress Relief Program

The semester is winding down and the stress level is building. That can mean only one thing for UB students: therapy dogs to the rescue!

The dogs are back in town, returning to the UB Libraries for the eighth edition of Stress Relief Days, an event where students can get away from their textbooks to relax with a four-legged friend.

Students can find the dogs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 4-6 in B-15 on the lower level of the Health Sciences Library (HSL) on the South Campus.

The following week the dogs will travel to the North Campus. They will be available for head pats and belly rubs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 11-13 in the staff lounge in the basement of Lockwood Library.

In addition to the dogs, students will have access to 10-minute chair massages; guided meditation sessions; reiki, the Japanese method of palm healing; Legos, jigsaw puzzles and other games; and coffee, tea and snacks.

This year, the program will welcome four English yellow labs, two German shepherds, a Great Dane, golden retriever, Bernese mountain dog, boxer, beagle, cavalier, French bulldog, bichon and a chiweenie — a Chihuahua-dachshund mix.

“There is no better remedy for anxiety and stress than the friendly face of a therapy dog,” says Pamela Rose, coordinator of web services and library promotion for HSL. “Studies verify that petting a dog lowers your blood pressure and heart rate, boosts your energy and prepares you to do your best on those final papers and exams.”

The first stress-relief program at UB began in 2011, due in large part to the efforts of Rose and Amy Lyons, associate director of HSL.

Rose, a long-time advocate of animal-assisted therapy, first suggested bringing in certified therapy dogs to HSL to provide stress relief for students during finals week. She recruited volunteers from such local organizations as Therapy Dogs International and the SPCA’s Paws for Love.

The success of that first event led HSL to repeat it; Lockwood librarians joined the following semester and a full stress-relief program was launched in spring 2012.

Last fall, the program attracted a record 2,000 students. But perhaps the best evidence of success, Rose says, has been the interest the program has attracted from outside the university.

Institutions as close-by as Canisius College and as far away as the University of North Texas and University College London in the United Kingdom have reached out to UB for guidance on starting their own stress-relief programs that feature therapy dogs.

Outside demand was so great — more than 10 universities contacted UB — that Rose wrote “Guide to the Therapy Dog Team Visits at UB,” a brochure documenting the process.

For more information on the Stress Relief Days program, contact Rose at 829-5722.