Humane educators and Animal Allies volunteers made the whole campus smile with their extra-special delivery of dogs (and one brave cat) on May 7, having successfully prepped the puppies for two hours of intense snuggles by K9-starved college students.
Pet Away Stress is part of Stress-Less Week, held the week before finals and designed to help students find the "ohm" in the end-of-year urgency.
Those "ohms" quickly transformed into "Oh fer cutes!" in Kirby Student Center as the dogs infiltrated clusters of study groups and pool players. "Puppies!" exclaimed senior Sarah Rabe, who explained her enthusiasm, "This is my favorite day of the year."
Sarah Stark and other Student Association members practically had their noses pressed against their office window, waiting for the dogs to arrive. "We were counting down the minutes," she admitted.
Education major Jamie Prax took a break from the end-of-year projects for an opportunity to pet away stress and said, "This is really helpful for students."
Science backs this up. In the middle of all that cuteness, students were enjoying a release of stress-fighting hormones. A recent University of Missouri-Columbia study found that interaction with dogs is like arming yourself against stress-related disorders, as petting them releases serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin.
That's the idea behind the event, which began four years ago, says Dori Decker, community program specialist in UMD Health Services. Decker sites an American College Health Association survey which found that 30% of college students name stress as the biggest factor on academic performance. "So the week before finals is the perfect time for this."
Last year, 1,300 people participated in Pet Away Stress. Stress-Less Week is sponsored by the Kathryn A. Martin Library, UMD Health Services, and the Office of Civic Engagement.