Ca­nine com­fort

Ther­apy dogs help stu­dents cope as fi­nals cap stress­ful se­mes­ter

The Republican Herald - - HEALTH - by SaWSaN MOrrar

Ther­apy dogs paid a visit to stressed- out Sacra­mento State stu­dents two weeks af­ter poor air qual­ity from the Camp Fire forced a week- long shut­down at the univer­sity.

With fi­nals week loom­ing, stu­dents pet­ted and played with poo­dles and bor­der col­lies in an ef­fort to re­lax and post con­tent on so­cial me­dia. The dogs were part of a pet ther­apy or­ga­ni­za­tion called Gold Coun­try Love on a Leash, which cer­ti­fies pri­vately owned dogs — and some­times cats and rab­bits — to com­fort peo­ple around them.

Be­cause of the week- long clo­sure, Sacra­mento State resched­uled events and ex­tended the dead­line to drop classes. But the fall se­mes­ter was not ex­tended, and the fi­nals sched­ule re­mained the same, bring­ing added stress to some stu­dents.

While this is not the first time the univer­sity has hosted a dog ther­apy event for stu­dents, this one was par­tic­u­larly ben­e­fi­cial given the added anx­i­ety of an im­pacted se­mes­ter.

“Fi­nals are pretty stress­ful to be­gin with, and some stu­dents might be cram­ming work in since school was closed,” Love on a Leash chap­ter leader Yvonne Telles said. “An­i­mals have that con­nec­tion to help re­duce that stress.”

Re­search shows that pets can lower heart rate and blood pres­sure, and im­prove men­tal health. Pet­ting a dog for a few min­utes can re­lease “feel- good” hor­mones in hu­mans that pro­mote calm­ness and re­lax­ation.

Since re­turn­ing from the pro­longed break, third- year Sacra­mento State stu­dent Priscilla Mezquita stayed up late ev­ery night to catch up with her stud­ies. She said this is the most stress­ful time she has ex­pe­ri­enced in col­lege so far.

“I was lucky that my ex­ams were stag­gered through­out the se­mes­ter, but be­cause school was out, all of those ex­ams were pushed to this week,” Mezquita said. “Com­ing out to pet the dog has been a re­ally good dis­trac­tion.”

While all dogs can help hu­man de­stress, ther­apy dogs go through a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process, which helps iden­tify them as well- be­haved and lov­ing to­ward peo­ple

The de- stress­ing isn’t just for the stu­dents. The ther­apy team said the dogs feel it too.

Lori Stur­iza’s Aus­tralian shep­herd, Pelli, tore her ACL ear­lier this year, and the univer­sity event was her first day back on the job. Stur­iza, who is a nurse, says Pelli en­joys vis­it­ing hospi­tal pa­tients with her.

“She comes out here and gets an over­load of love,” Stur­iza said. “It keeps her busy and gives her some­thing to think about all day.”

Stu­dent par­ent Carly Hes­sel un­ex­pect­edly spot­ted the ther­apy dogs out­side the li­brary and brought her two young chil­dren, ages 4 and 2, to pet them. As a newly sin­gle mom with fi­nals ap­proach­ing, Hes­sel said she felt the added stress of keep­ing her chil­dren in­doors for days as smoke filled the air.

“We are very happy to find the dogs out here to­day,” Hes­sel said, as her chil­dren took turns pet­ting a Great Dane as tall as them. “I re­ally needed it. All three of us needed it.”

“Fi­nals are pretty stress­ful to be­gin with, and some stu­dents might

be cram­ming work in since school was closed. An­i­mals have that con­nec­tion to help re­duce that stress.” Yvonne Telles, chap­ter leader,

Love on a Leash

SACRA­MENTO BEE

Stu­dents at Sacra­mento State greet Zola, a Great Dane, one of sev­eral ther­apy dogs vis­it­ing cam­pus on Nov. 28. The dogs were present in an ef­fort to help stu­dents de- stress af­ter a busy se­mes­ter.

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