Has the heat just turned up on your holiday season?
Just imagine if you had to throw a week’s worth of final exams on top of the stress?
That’s the thought behind the University at Buffalo Libraries Stress Relief Days early this week.
Sophie, a Bernese Mountain Dog, will be among the four-legged visitors looking to help take the edge off fall semester’s final week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Tuesday in the basement Lockwood Memorial Library Staff Lounge on the UB North Campus and Room B-15 Lower Level of the Health Sciences Library at UB South.
Pamela Rose, who has been Health Sciences Web services library promotion coordinator the last 15 years started the UB Therapy Dog Program four years ago with help from her boss, Amy Lyons and Sophie, her dog. They have helped spread similar programs to other campuses, too.
Rose, who lives in the Buffalo Parkside neighborhood, also is a docent at the Buffalo Zoo, member of several animal support groups and founder of Therapy Animals of Western New York.
Below is part of what she told me during an interview earlier this year.
Q. How does animal therapy benefit people?
Dogs are the best known terms of animal therapy. There’s a very large area of practice called Animal Assisted Therapy, AAT. Under that umbrella, there are service dogs which include Guilding Eyes for the Blind; dogs that assist emotionally for those that have PTSD. Those are called emotional assistance dogs. And there are service animals that can help people who are paralyzed by picking things up and handing them to you. Some dogs can predict seizures.
In the most casual use, there are therapy animals. Horses are used. Rabbits, cats, ferrets. Therapy dogs.
With all of these modalities, the signature benefit is when you stroke an animal, the first thing that happens is you relax a little bit and your blood pressure goes down. It also lowers cortisol, which runs around in your body when you’re stressed. A lot of this comes from relaxation and the fact that the dog is totally nonjudgmental. It doesn’t care that you have a spot on your tie. It doesn’t care if you look sad or you look happy – although it may pick up on those cues. It’s just that it loves people, and it loves you in that moment.
Of course, that’s anthropomorphization. It’s total acceptance and just a moment for you to take a breath. There’s also the pure pleasure of putting your hand through soft fur, like a plush Teddy bear. Even for people who are not animal people, it connects you back to nature, and you know how wonderful it is take a walk in a green park or go hiking on a trail, or just listen to the world around you.
However civilized we may think we are, we’re still creatures of nature. I think we all hunger for that in some way and I think this helps with that.
Q. What impact has the Therapy Dog Program had since 2011 and since you developed a “Guide to the Therapy Dog Team Visits at UB?”
When we piloted the program at the Health Sciences Library, there was only one location of any size that did it. Since then, it’s expanded to the North Campus. From there, it’s also expanded to other colleges in the region: Canisius, Niagara County Community College, Erie Community College, Geneseo, they all have contacted us for a guide to how to how to develop the program. They hold them themselves. We’ve also heard from colleges in England, Colorado, Texas. For many reasons, many other people started to certify their dogs as therapy dogs, so the number of teams increased (to more than 200 in the region). And here at UB, aside from the libraries, residence advisors will hold a couple of hours in the evening in the dorms they live in. We didn’t start the program, either. Yale was one of the earliest schools.
Q. Where else can folks expect to find you and your Sophie in the coming weeks?
I’m at the Buffalo airport Friday evenings with Sophie for those coming in and out of the airport.
Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon