The beginning of the semester can be a very stressful time for students trying to get acclimated to their course schedules, homework and extracurricular activities or jobs. The Raymond H. Folger Library is making an effort to help reduce these stresses that college students face.
On Sept. 12, 18 and 19, Fogler Library welcomed a group of licensed therapy dogs and their handlers to interact with University of Maine students and staff. Whether you are a stressed college student or just a lover of dogs, therapy dogs can brighten your day and increase happiness. According to pawsforpeople.org, pet therapy can lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health, release endorphins that have a calming effect and produce a relaxation response, reducing stress and anxiety. Meeting therapy dogs in the library also allows students the opportunity to socialize and meet others in a low-pressure environment.
“It seems like everyone who spends time with the therapy dogs is less stressed than they were before the visits and you can absolutely tell how quickly someone’s expression changes the moment they walk through the library and see the dogs here. Even if someone only spends a few minutes with the therapy dogs, it’s clear that they’re in a better mood because of it. On the other hand, plenty of people stop by just because they love dogs,” Brad Beauregard, the public relations manager at Fogler Library, said.
Therapy dogs have also been shown to lessen depression, decrease feelings of isolation and provide a sense of comfort and community. Recent studies by American Humane have shown that therapy dogs can even benefit children undergoing treatment for cancer.
“The visits provide several benefits for the campus community. The visits make people happier. They reduce stress and anxiety, and they’re a great way for students to interact with each other outside of class,” Beauregard said. “The therapy dog handlers also do an incredible job of engaging with students and making them feel at home, which is exactly how we want people to feel when they visit the library.”
Fogler Library brings in handlers through different organizations and networks to schedule visits. Dogs are cared for by different owners and are contacted through the network. Each handler undergoes training with their dog in order to be certified as a therapy dog and provide aid to those who need it.
“All of our handlers have gone through a certification test with an organization that licenses therapy dogs, but the specific organization varies from handler to handler. Therapy Dogs International and Pet Partners are two of the more common organizations our handlers have been certified by … many of them have been visiting Fogler with their dogs for years,” Beauregard said.
Fogler Library brings in the dogs nine times per year. They will be back for three days during fall and spring finals. Once the visits are scheduled, they will be posted on the library website, social media accounts and on signs throughout the library.