Worried about finals? Therapy dogs to the rescue

Students needing a “fur fix” to help de-stress as they study this week for finals can hug pet therapy dogs visiting the campus this Tuesday and Wednesday. Brought here by University Health Services as part of its Pet Hugs program, the dogs —- from Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation — will be waiting to greet students outside Moffitt Library between noon and 1 p.m.

ARF pet therapy dogs on campus.

ARF pet therapy dogs on campus (University Health Services photo)

Studies show that interaction with animals lowers blood pressure, reduces anxiety, improves physical and mental health and gives a feeling of well-being.

“The dogs give instant stress relief,” says Kim LaPean, communications manager at University Health Services. “Many students miss their pets, and can’t have pets in the residence halls, so this is a nice way for them to get that love during a stressful time in the academic year.”

Students will see some familiar animal faces outside the library, if they’ve been at past Peg Hugs events. The dogs were such a hit that they now visit Berkeley not only the week before finals each semester, but on the first Tuesday of every month, from noon to 1 p.m. on Sproul Plaza.

“We’ve also coupled the monthly visits with building out a social media presence for the dogs,” says LaPean. “With the virtual Pet Hugs photo albums on Facebook and Twitter, students can feel the love all year long.”

One popular dog, Maddie, had surgery, “and all the students were worried,” LaPean says. “She’s fine now, but they missed her the month she wasn’t around. We like to bring the same dogs back, to keep some consistency, but the students also are fond of the new ones that visit as well.”

The ARF is a nonprofit, Contra Costa County organization that rescues animals that might otherwise be euthanized; facilitates spaying, neutering and adoptions; provides pet food to the needy; and runs programs that brings people and pets together at local organizations including medical centers, assisted living facilities, schools and libraries.