It is not unusual to see dogs being walked up and down Appian Way during the weekday. Something that may be unique, however, is that Keene State College will provide dogs as stress relievers during exams week in the library and through the residential halls.
In an article from USA Today, citing a Virginia Commonwealth University study, “employees who bring their dogs to work produced lower levels of the stress-causing hormone cortisol.” Professor Randolph Barker of VCU commented on the study in an article from BBC News and stated, “The employees as a whole had higher job satisfaction than industry norms.”
Peggie Partello, associate professor of communication at KSC, will be teaching an Introduction to Thinking and Writing [ITW] course called The Role of Companion Animals. Partello is the owner a large white Russian Samoyed named Mario. She said she believes that animals, and dogs in particular, can have incredible benefits on a person’s psyche.
“What we do know about animal companionship, whether it’s with children, young adults, seniors, is that animals have an impact on your health. They can reduce your blood pressure and calm you down, especially in a stressful time like finals, ” Partello explained when asked about the beneficial effects of a dog as a companion. This was especially true, she said, for freshmen who might be feeling genuine homesickness for the first time in their lives.
“Freshmen are your people that are transitioning from home and parents, friends, family. But what many of my students tell me is that they actually miss their pets more than their parents or siblings, believe it or not” Partello said.
“You have to remember, kids grow up with these animals for a good portion of their lives, and they go to them when they’re sad or depressed or stressed or in grief, and sometime the animals are the only ones that they can really get solace from,” she continued.
Bud Winsor, assistant director of physical plant at KSC, also sees dogs a remedy for the issue of homesickness. He is the owner of two golden retrievers, Austin and Allie. Bud helped to put together an on-campus program that brought therapy dogs to the freshman residential halls periodically in the first months of this semester.
“There was one night in Holloway, there had to be like one hundred twenty students, or more. It was one of those things, where early on I think that the freshmen were getting really homesick. There were students that came in and hugged the dogs and didn’t let go for a while. It had a clear calming effect on the homesick feelings that students feel,” Winsor said.
Partello explained the sense of security that a dog may provide.
“Certainly, dogs are going to notice things that people don’t. I mean I’ve stayed away from people just because my dogs didn’t like them while I was walking them” Partello mentioned.
Junior Heather Fagan, whose miniature pinscher named Penny lives back at home in New Jersey, took the Role of Companion Animals class with Partello and offered some comments about how dog companionship can help students.
“The big thing is that we’re basically all away from home. Dogs can give people that sense of closeness or companionship that they might be lacking, being away from our foundation at home. And, at times, it’s more important to have a connection with an animal than with people, because animals are so innocent, they can’t hurt you, all they have is love. There’s no judgment,” she said.
Fagan once attended an event organized with the Monadnock Humane Society in the student center during exam week and said it was beneficial. “It got my mind off of studying and the whole stress of it all for a while,” Fagan said.
“It’s all about if it works for the dog. In my case, I brought my dog up to college and it wasn’t a good environment for it. It didn’t take me long to figure that out, at first I thought it would be great idea, but it wasn’t the best place for a dog to live,” Winsor explained.
However, for students who live on campus, or whose housing is less than optimal for a pet, Partello had some suggestions.
“There is an excellent humane society here, Monadnock Humane Society, on route ten. I was on their board for many years; I did a lot of volunteer work and some fundraising for them. It’s actually a premier humane society in the United States,” she explained.
“I recommend that if students want to see dogs and cats, take a ride down there. It’s not a far drive, and I know a number of students that have done it when they needed their animal fix. Take a dog out for a walk, sit and play with a cat. It’s therapeutic. They’re always looking for people to volunteer. ”
Brendan Keenan can be reached at email@example.com