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Therapy dogs ease studying stress

therapy dogs

Kellie and Opis, two therapy dogs that spent time with students on December 5. (Photo by Nick Eaton '17)

The usually studious Iwasaki Library was alive with canine energy as a part of the library’s daylong Cirque De De-Stress events on December 5. That’s when Kellie and Opie, two Lhasa apso certified therapy dogs, spent time with students during study breaks for final exams.

Students were able to sign up for 15-minute time slots to spend time with the dogs while seamlessly forgetting about the million other things on their minds.


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Students interact with a therapy dog on December 5. (Photo by Nick Eaton '17)

Cate Hirschbiel, an Iwasaki Library coordinator who helped organize the therapy dog event, said the idea has been brewing for some time.

“We've actually been trying to do therapy dogs at Emerson for several years [but] there was a feeling of ‘do students really want that?’” Hirschbiel said.

Therapy Dogs for Finals took the studying stress off students December 5 at the Iwasaki Library. (Video by Nick Eaton '17)

This semester the Emerson Engagement Lab launched Community PlanIt: Emerson UnCommon, which was an online game used to garner feedback from students, faculty, and staff to aid with strategic planning. During the game, the community gave the most votes to bringing Therapy Dogs for Students to campus as part of the daylong Cirque De De-Stress, which included other relaxing events, such as yoga and arts and crafts.

“When the Emerson UnCommon came up, we decided to put our idea to the test,” Hirschbiel said. “It turns out people vehemently said they did want it. We think it’s just something nice to do for the students in this heavy period of stress.”



Students play with a therapy dog at the Iwasaki Library on December 5. (Photo by Nick Eaton '17)

“The thing about pets is that they don’t ask anything of you, they will just sit there and listen to you talk,” said Stephanie Kodis, one of the dog handlers. “Even the repetitive motion of petting a dog they say is good for anyone, and it is a stress reliever. They take your mind off of all the other things you’re thinking about. ”

Emma Lukens ’17, a Performing Arts major, agrees.

“Dogs always have such positive attitudes that it gives me a positive attitude towards finals,” she said. “They make me feel great and can even for a second make me forget how stressed out I am.”


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Therapy dog at Emerson on December 5. (Photo by Nick Eaton '17)

Emerson UnCommon players voted to support two other causes: the Student Immigration Movement advocacy organization and the Interactive Online History of Emerson campaign supported by the Iwasaki Library. Those causes, along with Therapy Dogs for Finals, were each provided $1,000 by Emerson UnCommon in a ceremony last month.

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