Everyone needs a study buddy.
And though he may not know quantum physics or be familiar with Emile Durkheim, Buddy, an eight-year-old Bichon Frise, does have a knack for lowering stress, offering unconditional love and being just plain cute.
That’s why the small white pooch and seven other canine companions were on campus Wednesday in a puppy room set up for humans to blow off some steam during exams with the four-legged crowd.
“It just makes my day even better, actually,” said Maria Dubeault, a first-year applied linguistics students, who was taking a break with Buddy before her next test. “Even with exams.”
Dubeault and fellow first-year student Madison Kelley were among the first students into the puppy room set up in the Kenmore Centre. As Buddy wagged his tail and closed his eyes in pure bliss while getting an ear scratch, Kruz, a massive four-year-old French Mastiff, was rolling over for a belly rub and hamming it up for the crowd.
“It takes your mind off the stress,” said Kelley, a sociology student.
Puppy rooms have been popping up on campuses elsewhere to help students cope with the pressures that come with the end of the term. Brock’s edition came to be thanks to the efforts of Health Services and the Brock University Students’ Union. The pooches are therapy dogs provided by St. John Ambulance.
Dr. Darrell Grant, Health Services’ medical director, said the idea for puppy room was unleashed after the University’s health fair in November, where the therapy dogs proved popular with students.
Given all the smiles he was seeing on students’ faces Wednesday, Grant said the puppy room was as much a social activity as a stress reliever – and one that happens to overlap both health services’ mandates of health promotion and treatment.
“Petting an animal, a pet, lowers blood pressure and lowers the heart rate so in the short-term, it’s good to de-stress and bring anxiety levels down,” he said.
This was the therapy dogs’ first time participating in a puppy room for stressed students. Normally, Buddy, Kruz and the other therapy dogs might make the rounds at seniors’ homes, hospices, libraries and schools, explained Alison Bradbury, therapy dogs unit co-ordinator for Niagara and Buddy’s owner.
Still, as she watched Buddy schmooze and move from person to person, there was no denying the effect he was having in his new gig as study aid.
“It shows dogs reduce stress,” Bradbury said. “It takes students minds off the stress, off exams. It gives them an outlet and I think it reminds them of home, too.”
The therapy dogs return to the Kenmore Centre Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.