By Kara Murray

College students know school can be overwhelming sometimes. In between homework, exams and extracurriculars, some students de-stress by reading, listening to music or doing yoga. One of the most popular stress-relievers at the University of Connecticut is pet therapy.

Hosted by the Health Education Office in Wilson Hall, pet therapy is held every other Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. and every other Tuesday from 2-5 p.m. Students can sit in soft, fuzzy chairs or on the floor and pet the dogs for as long as they want.

One of the dogs is Layla, a five-year-old Border Collie and Great Pyrenees mix. She is usually scheduled for Wednesdays. Her brother Luke, an eight-year-old Golden Retriever, is also a regular at pet therapy.

Students pet Layla, one of UConn’s therapy dogs. Photo: Ally Urban

“We’ve been coming here for a couple years,” Layla and Luke’s owner Ted said. “But I’ve been doing [pet therapy] for 20.” Ted said his wife also takes Luke to the Connecticut Veterans Home in Rocky Hill, and the dogs make a huge difference to the people both there and at UConn.

Many students say sitting with the dogs for even just a few minutes has a major impact on their mood. For some, it also reminds them of home.

“[Pet Therapy] helps me miss my dog a little less,” junior Katie Marble says. “It’s not exactly the same, but it does make me feel a lot better when I’m stressed.”

It’s not just a matter of opinion, either. In a study done by the Department of Family Practice at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Science in Bethesda, Maryland, researchers found that the presence of a pet had a relaxing or anti-anxiety effect similar to an activity such as quiet reading.

Another study published in the American Journal of Health came to the conclusion that pet therapy programs are extremely beneficial to college freshman in particular, and can help fill the absence of previous support systems as well as help them form new relationships.

For freshman Elizabeth He, the dogs are a welcome break from constantly being surrounded by people. She has been to pet therapy three times and said she can see a difference in her mood before and after going.

“Seeing humans all the time is fine, but then seeing a different living thing is cool,” she says.  

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