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Puppy love on the Hill

Therapy dogs relieve midterm stress

Published: Monday, October 18, 2010

Updated: Monday, October 18, 2010 08:10

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Lane Florsheim / Tufts Daily

Man’s best friend lent a hand — or paw — to reduce stress in Miller Hall last week.

Midterms turned a furry corner last week when Miller Hall hosted an event that brought therapy dogs to campus in an effort to help students cope with stress during the exam season.

Twelve therapy dogs visited Miller Hall's main lounge on Thursday and Friday as part of the Office of Residential Life and Learning-sponsored event, according to Miller Hall Resident Director Michael Bliss. Thursday's event was open to Miller residents only; the next day's event was open to all students.

Miller Resident Assistant (RA) Nimish Shah, a junior, brought the four-legged visitors to campus in collaboration with Bliss. The event was Shah's major residential project for the semester. All RAs are expected to spearhead a project of this sort during the year, according to Bliss.

The two also reached out to the Tufts chapter of Active Minds, a nonprofit mental health organization, which provided handouts on stress relief and squeezable stress-balls to attendees.

The therapy dogs visited Tufts through Dogs Building Opportunities for Nurturing and Emotional Support (Dog B.O.N.E.S.). Shah said Dog B.O.N.E.S. serves as a connection point for therapy dog owners who contacted Shah expressing interest in having their pets visit Tufts.

Patricia Waterson, owner of an English Springer Spaniel named Ms. Lola, was glad to see students enjoying themselves. Students shared stories with her about their dogs at home.

"This is a different place for us to pursue," Waterson told the Daily. "Usually we visit nursing homes and hospitals, but I see it makes a difference everywhere."

Bliss raised the idea of bringing therapy dogs to campus with Shah. Bliss said he first saw dogs used as stress relievers when he was a student at New York University.

"I worked for Residential Life there and I thought this would be a great thing to bring to Tufts," Bliss said. "We had the event right around midterms and it seemed to be pretty successful."

The event featured a variety of dog breeds, including an Irish Wolfhound, a black Labrador Retriever, an Australian Shepherd and a Goldendoodle, according to Bliss.

"We tried to get a mix of dogs so everyone enjoys it somehow," Bliss said.

Shah said they took into consideration the needs of students who are not fond of dogs or animals by keeping the dogs confined to the lounge area.

"It's better to contain the dogs in an area so whoever wants to see the dogs can," he said.

Ekow Essel, an RA in Wren Hall, said it was important to host stress-relieving events in order to bring students together.

"Programs like these are essential to building a cohesive community, especially during such a stressful time," Essel, a senior, said.

Senior Jeffrey Baker watched the event from a distance but nonetheless believed it was beneficial to students.

"I'm not personally a dog fan, but I think this event was a really good idea because people probably miss their dogs at home," Baker said. "I'm sure this relaxes them and puts them in a more positive state of mind."

Bliss thought the event was successful. "If you notice, some students pet the dogs immediately, and some just stand back and watch, but they're all laughing and enjoying themselves," he said. "I think this is really effective, massively effective for stress relief."

Sophomore Sarah Kern, who attended the event, agreed. "I think this event is a success," she said. "Everyone looks really relaxed and happy to be here. Plus, everyone loves puppies."

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