Updated as of Oct. 7, 2021 at 3:22 p.m. to include video.
After the loss of one of her dogs, sophomore Jill Dow invited her registered emotional support dog, Beck, to campus. The 10-year-old rescued mix lives with Dow on campus, helping her alleviate the stress of college.
“Having Beck on campus has also helped me to meet people outside of my friend group,” Dow said. “Faculty families and other students have come up to meet Beck and give him lots of love and attention.”
For students experiencing similar stress levels to Dow, SPARKS Peer Educators will host Pet Therapy with PAAWS Oct. 6 for students to take a break from their day with a therapeutic activity. Dogs, cats and bunnies will be waiting on the Moseley West Lawn for friendly interaction.
SPARKS Peer Educators focuses on the health and wellness of the Elon University community. The student-led group holds conversations including topics like substance education, mental fitness and sexual health. For the Pet Therapy event, SPARKS will partner with The Kopper Top Life Learning Center PAAWS program.
Pet therapy brings joy, comfort and community and unites students with something so common as animals.
Graduate Apprentice for Recreation and Wellness Kelsey Baron advocates for the benefits of well being provided by therapy animals.
“The main goal of pet therapy is really to help students have an experience that emphasizes their mind-body connection, and their wellness regarding that connection without the need for screens and technology,” Baron said.
Based in Burlington and Greensboro, the PAAWS program is a portable animal assisted therapy program. The Kopper Top Life Learning Center provides animals for the event, showing how beneficial pet therapy can be.
“It's really nice to hear how [Beck] makes someone's day better and helps them to feel better, especially if they are missing their dog from home,” Dow said.
The pet therapy event also hopes to focus on the socialization of students, helping decrease homesickness and brightening their day. Along with this comes the mental and physical benefits that help as well.
“Reactive petting actually produces an automatic relaxation response,” Baron said. “It stabilizes blood pressure, improves your heart health and your breathing slows, especially for those who are anxious.”
The event will also serve as a mood booster for students to experience as they walk through campus.
“This is a really great way to connect and relieve some stress and just laugh and not worry about all the assignments and other things going on in their lives,” Baron said. “Just focus on the little furry animals.”