By Christie Counts and Amanda Guevara, Feb. 7, 2023
On Jan. 31, during Cal Poly Pomona’s Library Welcome Week, therapy dog sessions were held for students who wanted to approach and pet the dogs one-on-one to relieve beginning-of-the-semester anxiety and replace it with love and affection.
A crowd of students gathered around in a circle to pet therapy dog Max, a playful Shih Tzu, on the second floor of the library. Max was delicately placed in the middle of the students where they were greeted with a tail wag and excited eyes as they pet their stresses away.
“It was so nice to see Max in between classes, a nice way to de-stress and he put a smile on my face,” said kinesiology student Camila Mejia.
Interacting with animals has been proven to decrease levels of stress and lower blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, positive partnership with a pet dog influences social, emotional, cognitive development and stress relief.
Students at the beginning of the semester are prone to experiencing high levels of anxiety as increasing academic pressures make it difficult to find time for self-care. Therapy dog programs offer physical contact and unconditional love that help students feel more connected and less isolated, which can be especially important for those who are far from home.
The Assistant to the Dean of the University Library, Kris Zoleta, explained that he plans traditional events like this to highlight library services, spaces and resources. These types of events are usually held during stressful times for students, such as finals week, or the start of the semester.
“We also want to highlight health, you know it is important to de-stress for students, that’s why we have events like this so you can de-stress and relax because we believe that mental health is very important,” said Zoleta.
Zoleta explained that during the Focus on Finals week event, they had students write letters to the therapy dog handlers to let them know how appreciative they were, given that all volunteers are from non-profit organizations. Students shared how it made their week, or it helped them de-stress and get motivated to do well on their finals.
There were two dates for this event, one on Tuesday and the other on Friday. During Friday’s therapy session two other dogs were present, Grayson and Winston. Grayson is an old English sheepdog whose handler is a CPP Alumni from the College of Agriculture. Winston is a Yorkshire terrier who has a friendly rivalry with Grayson.
Various non-profit groups certify therapy dog handlers, who partner with the University’s Library to deliver therapy dog services for students and faculty.
“Especially for me living on campus because I don’t get to see dogs very much,” explained apparel merchandising and management major Karina Chavez. “Having the opportunity to come and visit Max is really cool, he has definitely brightened up my day.”
Chavez came to visit Max after explaining that all the work she had been doing was deleted, so she decided to come to the library to pet Max, in hopes it would brighten her day.
“I ran from my building to come pet Max. Especially living on campus because you don’t get to see dogs, so having an opportunity to come and visit Max is really cool, pups just bring so much happiness,” said Chavez.
The therapy dog tradition held in the University Library has become an integral part of de-stressing for students, by improving mental health and creating a supportive environment that is vital to all students’ success.