As the start of the semester begins to wear away and students become more acclimated to their schedules, the amount of coursework and stress is on the rise. In an effort to diffuse some of the stress, the Student Government Association has brought back a student favorite program: Pet Therapy.
Based on the idea that time spent with animals, particularly animals such as cats and dogs, is calming, Pet Therapy is designed to decrease stress in students as they enjoy time with the animals. Though simplistic in sound, Powell Henderson, volunteer for the Pet Therapy program at the Calloway County Humane Society, said the idea maintains credit within the scientific community, as those who consistently spend time with animals show lower levels of stress and anxiety compared to those who have no animal interaction.
Held monthly in the Curris Center and occasionally in the residential colleges, the program has been a staple on Murray State’s campus for a number of years. Students have consistently participated in the program, enjoying the presence of dogs and puppies on campus.
Kayla Clark, senior from Brandenburg, Ky., said she has enjoyed the dogs being brought to campus as compensation for missing her own pets while living on campus.
“The puppies are the main reason I stop by,” Clark said. “They’re too cute and it’s great because I never get to see my dogs at home because I live on campus. It almost makes up for it, not quite, but almost.”
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of dogs featured in Pet Therapy are not simply dogs brought from the local animal shelter that are up for adoption. Nearly all of the full-grown animals brought to the Curris Center are in fact trained, tested and certified therapy dogs.
To become certified, the animals take tests to demonstrate discipline and calmness, according to Henderson.
Though animals from the animal shelter may be brought in on occasion, most of the dogs in Pet Therapy are the personal pets of the attendants seen with them. In addition to their training, the therapy dogs are brought to campus rather than animal shelter dogs because of the reassurance that they are trained not to bite or be aggressive, therefore presenting less of an insurance liability for the University.
As the program continues to thrive on Murray State’s campus, many students find themselves looking forward to the occasion, anticipating the program’s next date.
“I can’t wait for Pet Therapy because it really takes your mind off of things, no matter what may be going on,” Clark said.
The Humane Society also occasionally brings therapy cats to local nursing homes, and they also have a miniature horse.
Said Henderson: “People always tend to
ask why we bring (the animals) in and the answer is always the same: they make people happy.”
Story by Shannon MacAllister, Staff writer.