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Pets Therapy Melts Away Stress During Finals
Volunteers have been visiting the UA James E. Rogers College of Law during finals to offer pet therapy to students working on projects and studying for final exams.
The sound from within the insulated room in the basement of the University of Arizona law library was in sharp contrast to the general mood just beyond its glass door.
Outside, James E. Rogers College of Law students pored through stacks of papers and books and were diligently typing on their laptops or speaking softly in their study groups.
But inside, students chatted with Delta Society volunteers who, during finals week, had arrived with their pets to help remedy – if only for a brief time – the natural stress that comes with finals.
"Other universities have just started bringing pets into the libraries to de-stress the students," said Jan Hutchinson, one of the Delta Society animal-handler teams on site Tuesday afternoon. Volunteers will return Wednesday and Thursday.
Fellow volunteer, Joan Leslie, had tucked gift certificates to Starbucks into the vest worn by Latus, her 4-year-old American Staffordshire terrier and pit bull mix. As students came in to pet Latus, she urged them to peek into the vest pockets.
"You can just see the stress levels go down," Leslie said.
Numerous studies have shown the physiological and emotional benefits of human-animal connections, with some research finding correlations between improved human health as a result of pet ownership and sustained interaction with cats, dogs, horses and other animals.
The more than 175 animal-handler teams registered with Delta Society and involved with its Pet Partner program also volunteer at schools, nursing homes, hospitals and in hospice care, working with pre-surgery patients and children who have been abused, among others.
The animal-handler teams have come together to form Therapy Animals of Southern Arizona, a resource and support group for volunteers and their dogs, cats, horses and other animals.
Hutchinson and the organization connected with the UA law school through UA School of Information Resources and Library Science graduate student Cindy Hirsch, also a library fellow with the law school.
In fact, Rachel Corrigan recalls having learned that George Mason University had a comparable program, introducing puppies to students during finals.
Wishing the UA did the same, Corrigan was surprised to later come upon a Facebook posting about the pet therapy sessions being offered at the UA law school.
"I thought it would be so fun, and it's such a good idea," said Corrigan, a third-year law student, going back and forth between petting Latus and Augie.
"You're just sitting there so long looking at your computer screen and studying," said Corrigan, who has four finals and a final paper. "I honestly do feel very happy right now. It's a nice break from the books."