Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Paws Program brings therapy dogs to brighten a cold week of midterms

The event was hosted by the Center for Health Promotion
Joe Frank/Collegian

Hundreds of students at the University of Massachusetts took a break from the stress of midterms on Wednesday to play, pet and greet dozens of therapy dogs in the Student Union Ballroom.

All around the room, students sat in small groups petting dogs, chatting with one another and taking advantage of other resources provided at the event. In a small corner, the UMass Permaculture Club offered soothing tea and the Peer Health Education Program offered information on their drop-in wellness coaching.

The event is called the Paws Program, an initiative hosted by the UMass Center for Health Promotion. In the program, therapy dogs are used to teach students about managing their own health. According to health promotion specialist April McNally, it’s all about connecting students to the health resources that are available to them.

“We’re looking to reduce stress among students, connect them to resources and help them engage in wellness in different ways,” McNally said. “We also want students to connect with each other, petting a dog, meeting someone new and actively participating in self-care.”

Olga Correa, a graduate assistant with the Peer Health Education Program, said these events are perfectly-timed with midterm and final exams to give students a chance to unwind when they need it most.

“Even just five minutes is a nice break from everything that students have going on,” Correa said. “The best thing has just been seeing the positive effect it has on peoples’ moods when they walk into the room.”

April Mishley, a junior biochemistry and molecular biology major, agreed that events like the Paws Program are a perfect way to ease the tension of exams.

“There’s no such thing as too many dog events,” she said.

Diane Houston, a resident of Shutesbury, Mass., attended the event with her two-year-old poodle, Jordan. Houston said she’d been to the event many times, initially with another one of her dogs and now with Jordan after he was certified as a therapy dog last fall. She said the best part of the event is the conversations she has with students who visit.

“Some of the comments that we hear, how much students miss their dogs and how happy this event makes them, are wonderful,” Houston said. “I’ve heard students say that this is the best event on campus.”

Eugene Picard, of Easthampton, Mass., attended the event with his nine-year-old goldendoodle, Toby. According to Picard, this is only Toby’s second year attending events at UMass, but Toby has done lots of other work in his years as a therapy dog.

“Toby goes to the soldiers’ home, the nursing home, all these events. He loves the attention,” Picard said.

The next Paws Program event will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 5.

Rachel Swansburg can be reached at [email protected].

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