Saddleback students are greeted with dogs as a way to de-stress from finals

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Students de-stress with therapy dogs and PAWS volunteers outside the LRC. (Photo and story by Cassidy Brunson)

Saddleback took a pause for paws on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon to enjoy the calm and comfort of therapy dogs provided by the Orange County SPCA PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support-Therapy Dog Program).

Librarians hosted the team of therapy dogs in order to create an atmosphere of peace and tranquility through any means necessary. Stopped outside the main entrance to the LRC/Library, puppies helped soothe students’ final exam jitters.

“Come one, come all, let our dogs help you de-stress,” said Lee, a PAWS volunteer. “Take a breather from studying and see what our dogs have to offer.”

Teagan, the Greyhound, Crosby, the English Springer Spaniel, Cody, the mixed mutt and Anne, the Bichon Frise, wagged their tails when met with smiles from students who were eager to pet the dogs and forget about school for a few moments.

“What a great idea,” student Ryan Southworth said. “I think it’s adorable and it definitely helps my stress.”

A pet-assisted therapy program that travels throughout Orange County, PAWS volunteers and dogs have monthly visits to more than 20 facilities in Orange County including schools, nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, hospice and children’s homes, and programs.

Studied and proven by psychologists, the human-canine bond is a mutual beneficial and dynamic relationship that in effect causes positivity and healing.

“The results are often subtle rather than miraculous,” Cynthia, Lee’s wife, said. “It may be simple smiles, warming a room where there was no hope, or even delivering warmth and love to those who desperately need it.”

Each dog in the organization is tested and certified to join. The dogs must prove their capability to not only do well but also be obedient. Although most students voiced their stress, the dogs did not exhibit too much concern.

“Our dogs certainly aren’t stressed,” said Cynthia, pointing out their either laying down or cuddled positions. “Our wish is that the dogs’ relaxed temperaments rub off onto the students here before their exams.”

The dogs stayed for two hours in what became a two-day event. The program was not only successful, but as to whether the therapy dogs alleviated student stress, the answer seemed like a yes.

Judging by an informal assessment of how students felt heading to see the dogs and how they felt afterward, Pause for Paws worked.

Asked to indicate their stress levels after the session, a majority of students said the amount had significantly lowered following play time with the dogs.

“We benefit as much as the dogs do from this,” Mike, a fellow PAWS volunteer, said.

Students nowadays need access to self-care and stress management, according to the team.

“Our goal is to create a health-promoting environment,” Lee said. “Monitor your stress levels, and good luck with finals.”

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