By Meredith Howard | Staff Writer
A group of students formed a circle on the floor and waited patiently for their turn to pet one of the Pet Partners dogs that visited the Beauchamp Addiction Recovery Center (BARC) Thursday. Some of the students appeared more stressed than others, but all seemed to become calm in the presence of the therapy dogs.
San Antonio freshman Kaitlyn Dutton experienced the benefits of therapy dogs for the first time at this event, and she said she enjoyed it.
“I feel a lot of stress every day— at least at some points of the day there’s a high amount,” Dutton said. “I have two dogs at home, and I’m really missing them right now. It’s hard not coming home to two dogs every day, so having an outlet like this is a nice way to feel better.”
Karenna Malavanti, a psychology lecturer at Baylor, works with Pet Partners and she explained how therapy dogs can be helpful to stressed students.
“Dogs really want to relieve stress in their humans. They don’t call them man’s best friend for nothing, so they do a really good job of reading their people’s emotions. You often see the dogs gravitating to those who are more stressed and who need them the most,” Malavanti said.
Malvanti also explained the science behind the effectiveness of therapy dogs.
“By petting a dog, you release some cortisol, which is your stress hormone, and it actually decreases your level of stress. It also releases oxytocin, an affection hormone, which helps you with your bonding, but it also does the same for the dogs too. So they get really tired and really calm through this.”
Trabuco Canyon, Calif., freshman Ashlyn Hollerbach attended the event and was happy to have a break from her day-to-day schedule to spend some time with the dogs.
“To come here and have dogs that just want to be loved by people is totally making my day,” Hollerbach said.
Dutton believes that college students benefit from actively trying to decompress when they get overwhelmed. She shared a few of her go-to ways to manage stress.
“Take a deep breath. Know that God’s got it and really just focus on what you need to get done first, and take it day by day. Come see the therapy dogs, cause they help,” Dutton said.
The dogs will visit BARC again on Sept. 18 from 6:30-8 p.m.
For more information about therapy pets, visit Pet Partner’s website.