Students need exposure to therapy dogs during college

Professor Beau, USC’s first full-time canine faculty member, has office hours to help students destress. (Daily Trojan File Photo)

We are in the midst of the infamous “midterm season,” where students swarm libraries and study spaces in a frantic attempt to finish their various assignments. Between tests, assignments and papers, students have an overwhelming amount of academics to tend to and complete. On top of that, students also need to maintain their composure despite the overwhelming pressure. This sometimes proves to be difficult because, frankly, life is not easy. However, a certain kind of therapy might help take the edge off for students.

Think about the perks of having a dog. Current or previous dog owners most likely have a laundry list of things to say about their dog. Starting with the obvious benefits like cuddling, protection and friendship, there are more essential perks like support, safety and assistance. Many of us have seen or heard of Professor Beauregard Tirebiter—more commonly known as Beau. 

Beau is the University’s first full-time canine faculty member, frequently circling USC’s campus to encourage wellness among fellow faculty members. Beau is a professionally-trained dog and is very beneficial to students in terms of mental health and well-being, but one dog is really not enough. Students need to be exposed to more than one dog during their time in college because this exposure can improve mental health and relieve stress, which is helpful even if it’s only temporary. 

Obviously, it is not reasonable to suggest that every college student should go and rescue a dog. They cost money with veterinary fees, food and other needs — not to mention the time that one must afford to ensure the dog frequently exercises and maintains a healthy lifestyle. Most students do not have time to add another responsibility to their plate. But that should not stop us from bringing more dogs on campus for students to temporarily engage with, to distract from the overwhelming life of a college student. One does not need to own a dog in order to reap its benefits — dogs just need to be made more readily available and seen by students on a more frequent basis than the occasional Beau sighting. 

Several organizations like Diamond Dogs at Temple University are can bring dogs to campus and are even established solely for the purpose of easing stressed students. Kent State University has a program called Dogs on Campus where dogs come to campus during stressful times such as finals week or midterms. 

These dogs need people too, because they may come from traumatic backgrounds and need a companion. A relationship that is beneficial to both the student and the dog is capable of distracting from the sometimes overwhelming college lifestyle.  Not to mention that dogs are easy to talk to, which is what a student may need to decompress after a long day.

Sometimes, random events include dogs specifically for petting and each time this happens, a multitude of students gather to enjoy these cute pups. Dogs have been proven to alleviate a variety of stress symptoms experienced by students. According to the Mental Health Foundation, dogs are proven to lower levels of stress and anxiety. Furthermore, walking a dog gives a person a sense of companionship and forces the person to enjoy a walk, rather than stress over an assignment or test. If the University could put more effort into getting rescue organizations or shelters to bring dogs to campus for students to interact with, then it could help both the dog and the person. 

If events like these existed, it is also possible that a student might end up adopting a dog they felt a connection with, or at the very least temporarily create a relationship that is beneficial to both the dog and the student. This alleviation of stress for a student can be life-altering. All of these possible situations are beneficial for both parties and can only lead to a better atmosphere on campus. Dogs contribute a unique sense of comfort and companionship to humans. They are able to love unconditionally. They simply show their love with pure action, yet unfortunately do not live as long a life as a human being. This forces people to witness an example of something living and loving while they can, because everyone should really be reflecting the behavior of a dog — unconditional love while they can.