Bright Spot Therapy Dogs visit UMass Library

Paws Program relieves student stress


(Nina Walat/Daily Collegian)

By Colleen Kiely, Collegian Correspondent

Bright Spot Therapy Dogs visited the Campus Center and W. E. B. Du Bois Library on Tuesday to offer students an opportunity to meet with stress-relieving volunteer dogs as the mid-term season begins.

The highly anticipated event saw University of Massachusetts students and faculty arrive as early as 30 minutes beforehand to greet the dogs. In the campus center auditorium, about a dozen volunteers and their dogs set up areas for students to visit, pet and talk about all the visiting dogs.

“[You] don’t think about homework when you’re petting dogs,” said freshman public health student Francesca Gonnella, who had been looking forward to the Paws Program event since she heard about it on a campus tour.

Peer Health Education, located in the Center for Health Promotion, offers two Paws Programs events each semester at the mid-semester and finals seasons. According to the program website, the events aim to “reduce stress and improve overall well-being.” Over the course of the event, which ran from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., between 30 and 50 students were visiting at any given time.

Jackson, a two-and-a-half-year-old golden retriever, was the first dog to enter the auditorium with his owner, Maureen Ursprung. His dark amber coat complete with a pumpkin bandana showed off his fall spirit. Under the direction of his owner, Jackson showed off his talented tricks and was rewarded with bites of cheese.

Ursprung, who has been volunteering with Bright Spot since December 2018, described Jackson as “obsessed with swimming in water all year round.” She added that Jackson’s father is the “number one [dog] in the United States for show dogs.” With his training, Jackson not only helps stressed college students but also goes on nursing home visits and is a reading buddy dog for first graders at local elementary schools. Urspring discussed the importance of Jackson’s work with younger kids, mentioning that “studies have shown it improves kids’ social skills, competence and reading ability.”

Emma Ball, a freshman psychology major, said that she wrote a paper on the stress relieving power of college students interacting with therapy dogs. Looking specifically at the Paws Program, Ball mentioned that she found that spending time with therapy dogs is “always really helpful for students” and overall is a “beneficial factor for relieving stress and student well-being.”

The therapy dogs will return to campus on Wednesday, Dec. 4.

Colleen Kiely can be reached at [email protected]