What better way to reduce some of the stress that builds at semester’s end than to spend some time basking in the unconditional love of a dog? For years, Bowdoin’s Counseling and Health services have experimented with bringing to campus dogs and cats with which students could interact during periods of high stress. This year, three programs are allowing students to connect with the kind of therapy dogs that regularly visit patients in hospitals and nursing homes, assist children who have difficulty reading, and allow veterans to return to their families and communities after suffering injuries and post traumatic stress.
“Many students light up and come alive in the presence of dogs,” says Director of Counseling Service Bernie Hershberger. “It reminds students of their animals at home and allows them to have a few moments to pause, relax, pet and play with the dogs. Research indicates that time with animals lowers blood pressure, boosts immune system functioning, and reduces general levels of stress.”
The Counseling Service, Health Center, Residence Life, and student organizations are exploring how contact with pet therapy dogs might ease stress levels and improve overall health and emotional well being for students throughout the year.