After losing one of her dogs, Jill Dow invited her enrolled dog to the campus for emotional support, Beck, in her sophomore year. The 10-year-old rescued mix lives on campus with Dow, helping her take the stress out of college.
â€œHaving Beck on campus also helped me meet people outside of my group of friends,â€ Dow said. “Faculty families and other students have come to meet Beck and give him a lot of love and attention.”
For students with similar levels of stress as Dow, SPARKS Peer Educators will host pet therapy with PAAWS on October 6th so students can take a break from their day with a therapeutic activity. Dogs, cats and rabbits await friendly interaction on the Moseley West Lawn.
SPARKS Peer Educators is focused on the health and wellbeing of the Elon University community. The student-led group has conversations on topics such as substance education, mental fitness, and sexual health. For the Pet Therapy event, SPARKS will partner with The Kopper Top Life Learning Center PAAWS program.
Animal therapy brings joy, comfort, and community, and unites students with something as mundane as animals.
Recreation and Wellness Graduate Apprentice Kelsey Baron advocates the benefits of therapeutic animal welfare.
“The main goal of pet therapy is to help students have an experience that emphasizes their mind-body connection and well-being in relation to that connection, without the need for screens and technology,” said Baron.
The PAAWS program, based in Burlington and Greensboro, is a portable animal-assisted therapy program. The Kopper Top Life Learning Center makes animals available for the event and shows how beneficial animal therapy can be.
â€œIt’s really nice to hear how [Beck] makes someone’s day better and makes them feel better, especially if they miss their dog at home, â€Dow said.
The animal therapy event also hopes to focus on socializing students, relieving homesickness, and brightening their day. Then there are the mental and physical benefits that also help.
“Reactive stroking actually creates an automatic relaxation response,” said Baron. “It stabilizes blood pressure, improves your heart health, and makes your breathing slower, especially for those who are anxious.”
The event will also serve as a mood lift for the students as they walk around campus.
“This is a really great way to connect and relieve stress and just laugh and not worry about all the chores and other things that are going on in your life,” said Baron. “Just focus on the little furry animals.”