There has been no shortage of four legged friends around campus this semester. He SRC started us off with a brief visit from a much admired pooch; the GUU followed with a more laissez faire event a few weeks later, inviting a friend to bring in their own dog, while the QMU took a more professional approach, inviting the Glasgow arm of Therapet’s in for the afternoon of 2nd May.
Six dogs, from docile mongrel JJ to direwolf lookalike Troy, took over the Qudos to be petted and cooed over by over one hundred students. Each session lasted roughly fifteen minutes, with participants free to move between dogs, offering endless treats and chatting to handlers. The sessions are designed to be open and informal to allow any students to attend, be they stressed, depressed, homesick or just in need of a time-out from their day-to-day university life. The handlers themselves were always at the ready to ensure the dogs were not stressed and were enjoying the experience.
Most attendees were dog owners themselves missing their family pets and the familiar comfort of a canine friend, but all appeared to see the benefit, with many noting that they felt more relaxed and optimistic after their sessions.
Most Therapet’s visits tend to be more personal than these bigger group visits: either one to one meetings with children or adults with learning, social and emotional difficulties; or regular visits to hospitals, hospices and retirement homes. The outcomes of all visits however seemed to be the same.
The therapeutic value of animal/human interaction has been researched and debated since the late eighties, though the trend for university visits only became popular in the last five years. Though Glasgow is not leading in this regard it certainly seems to have adopted the theory with gusto, and I personally will be stocking up on doggie treats for the next round of visits.
(Alice Stern – Board Member QMU)
This article appeared in “qmunicate magazine” issue number 109