Stress out of ex­ams, by George

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Surviving Study Stress - By SARA FITZ­PATRICK

THER­APY dog George has a won­der­ful tal­ent for help­ing re­lieve stu­dents of stress around exam time.

The five-year-old spoo­dle – trained to be calm in all sit­u­a­tions – vis­its cam­puses, char­ity events and high schools such as St Hilda’s for cud­dles and com­pan­ion­ship.

“It’s as­ton­ish­ing to see his ef­fect on peo­ple – he looks like a fluffy teddy bear and as soon as stu­dents see him they start laugh­ing, some even start cry­ing be­cause they are a bit over­whelmed,” owner and As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor Shirley Bode, of Curtin Univer­sity, said.

“Be­fore ex­ams, stu­dents can be anx­ious and stressed and when there is a ther­apy an­i­mal around, it takes them out of that mind­set.

“Re­search shows that when you pat an­i­mals, your anx­i­ety lev­els are low­ered and you feel more re­laxed.”

George is a cer­ti­fied trained ther­apy dog, start­ing in his role with non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion An­i­mal Com­pan­ions and vis­it­ing peo­ple with de­men­tia.

“We’d go there on week­ends and George would in­ter­act and get peo­ple to en­gage and that would en­cour­age peo­ple to talk and rem­i­nisce,” Prof Bode said.

“Then about two-and-a-half years ago at Curtin, I was walk­ing past the exam venues and I could just feel the ten­sion and the stress and I thought I’d re­ally like to bring my dog here and in­tro­duce him as a way of help­ing stu­dents de-stress for their ex­ams.

“You can see the whole at­mos­phere change when George ar­rives.”

Now a reg­u­lar at the uni around exam time, George is ti­tled an of­fi­cial Curtin well­ness ac­tiv­ity.

“Ev­ery­one wants to cud­dle and take self­ies with him and he’s tagged on In­sta­gram, Face­book and Snapchat,” Prof Bode said.

“I set up a Face­book page for him, face­­orgethether­a­pydog: he’s got al­most 2000 friends.

“Peo­ple talk to him and ask: ‘Are you com­ing on cam­pus? Where are you go­ing to be?’ and he re­sponds to ev­ery ques­tion.”

George can be booked for schools across Perth.

“I love see­ing stu­dents happy and smil­ing and laugh­ing,” Prof Bode said.

“I get a lot out of it ,as does George and the stu­dents.”

George, with owner Shirley Bode, wins the hearts of stu­dents at St Hilda’s Angli­can School for Girls. Right: Who could re­sist that sweet face?

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