Exam time at the University of Guelph is a stressful period for students especially when they are far from home and away from family and their pets. The Take A Paws program offers students a little canine comfort.
“This is a Take A Paws room at the University of Guelph and we come here on a regular basis to provide a nice, calm, friendly situation for kids to de-stress a little bit especially during exam time,” said Diane Myers, team leader for Therapeutic Paws of Canada in Guelph.
“We know it’s all hard. So, we are here for the kids to pet the dogs and calm down and stuff.”
The program has become very popular, especially with students who have pets at home.
“Dogs are universally loved and it’s nice to offer students such a great way to de-stress that is so accessible to everyone,” said residence-wide program coordinator Liam Catton. “I have a Wheaten Terrier at home in Breslau. I don’t get home a lot because I am busy here between work and school and everything else.”
Additional Take A Paws events, such as the one held at Mountain Hall Tuesday evening, have been added to the schedule to service students during exams.
“We are running it every week for this semester and next semester,” said Catton. “We have a rotation at different locations around campus so it is accessible to everyone. This event is an additional event that the Psychology Society wanted to run so we made it happen. We are having additional stress busters during exams next week but, at least once a week is the base line.”
Therapeutic Paws of Canada provides dogs for Paws Rooms at other universities and colleges as well.
“Our organization is national so we do similar programs across the country,” said Myers. “We go into seniors’ homes and elementary schools. We have a Paws to Read program where the children read to the dog.”
The therapy dogs are even used by the courts through the Victim Witness Assistance Program or VRAP.
“We have a program with the court systems in specific areas where there is a person who has seen a violent act or been part of that,” said Myers. “They can request to have a dog with them before court, during the pre-court sessions and also in court as well.”
The dogs are trained for a variety of purposes.
“We have therapy dogs and we have dogs that go through additional evaluations to become child certified,” said Myers. “Those are the dogs that can go into the elementary schools and do programs with children specifically.”
Myers brought Mac, a seven-year-old black lab with lots of training and experience, to the Take A Paws session Tuesday.
“Mac has gone through therapy dog training and interaction with children certification,” said Myers. “He is also very chill. He has been working since he was 10 months old.”
Mac was joined by Lupo and his handler Susan Michelini.
“Lupo is a seven-year-old Alaskan Malamute,” said Michelini. “Lupo is wolf in Italian. My kids are in their early 20s so, he loves kids this age. He has been a therapy dog for eight months.”
Nearly all the students who visited with the dogs at Mountain Hall Tuesday have dogs at home that they count on for unconditional love and support.
“I have a border collie/golden retriever mix, a bull mastiff, a little Maltese mix and bichon so, a big variety,” said U of G student and Take A Paws volunteer Sarah Blacklock. “I want to be a vet in the future and this program demonstrates how having pets here is good for the mental health of students. This is the best place to come when you are missing your pups.”