Once again, the library is bringing students the only positive aspect of finals week: dogs in the library!
Afternoons Monday through Friday, don’t be surprised if you hear the pitter patter of paws in Homer Babbidge, as humans will proudly accompany their dogs to the first floor to provide students some much needed stress release during finals week.
The program, aptly named “Paws to Relax,” originated in spring of 2010, when a library staff member suggested bringing in therapy dogs for students during finals week.
Jo Ann Reynolds, the library’s Reserve Services Coordinator and self-proclaimed “dog person,” made a few calls in the canine community to help get the ball rolling, or in this case, the tail wagging.
Soon enough, registered therapy dogs from multiple organizations including Cold Noses, Warm Hearts, Allen’s Angels, and Tails of Joy were headed to Homer to help students de-stress during their exams.
On the first day of the program, Reynolds and the Laurel Rabschutz, owner of the first therapy dog Dooley, a Newfoundland, were worried about how students would know about Paws to Relax and whether it would be popular.
They soon found out that they need not worry. According to Reynolds, within minutes at least 30 to 40 students were surrounding Dooley and texting their friends to alert them to the dog’s presence.
After the first semester of the program, UConn got a lot of publicity. Newspapers, radio and television stations were all stopping by to document the dogs. Reynolds even had to institute a lottery system because so many therapy dog owners wanted the chance to visit.
The library staff is happy to offer this beneficial service for students.
“The dogs help them relax. People tend to think of therapy dogs in nursing homes or other places, and don’t think of students as much. But they are also in an institutional situation away from their family and their pets,” said Reynolds.
Apparently, even science can back up how much we love dogs.
Reynolds continued, “Research has shown that petting an animal, even if it’s not your own, lowers blood pressure and heart rate and improves the general sense of well-being.”
Students have outwardly expressed their enjoyment of Paws to Relax. When staff put up a white board where students could write their opinions of the program, the responses were overwhelmingly positive.
“I just got out of a tough exam and seeing the dogs was the highlight of my day,” “Best idea ever!” and “I love coming here in between exams” were just a few of the many comments.
The staff also does their best to minimize the footprint of the dogs so that students who need to avoid dogs because of allergies or other issues can do so with ease.
If you want to take a study break with someone practically yelling “Pet me! Pet me!” check out this year’s schedule below.
The Spring 2016 Paws to Relax schedule is as follows:
1 p.m.: Cooper the German Shepherd and his human Nancy Benway
2 p.m.: Sophia the Goldendoodle and her human Layla Berger
3 p.m.: Iggy the Portuguese Water Dog and his human Laurel Rabschutz
3:30 p.m.: Dooley the New Foundland and his human Laurel Rabschutz
1 p.m.: Bella the Pug and her human Judith Pepin
2 p.m.: Tegan the Welsh Spring Spanish and human Claudia Eberly
3 p.m.: Dante or Virgil the Mini Australian Shepherds and human Linda Robinson
1 p.m.: Fenway the Labradoodle and human Jean Woods
2 p.m.: Suzie the German Shepherd and human Gery Bakaj
3 p.m.: Chase the Golden Retriver and his human Michelle Volz
1 p.m.: Sebbi the American Cocker Spaniel and his human Karen Tuccitto
2 p.m.: Penn the Labradoodle and human Susan Stewart
3 p.m.: Mia the Shetland Sheepdog and her human Terrie Carpenter
1 p.m.: Meka the Keeshond and humans Diane & Ted Baricak
2 p.m.: Bo the Lab Mix and human Christine Anderson
3 p.m.: Spumoni the Great Dane and human Tracy Powell