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Exam Break Brings Dogs to Campus

 Exam Break Brings Dogs to Campus

04/27/2011 

“Paws for Stress Relief” is SUNY Cortland’s most relaxing study break on four legs.

The two-day event, scheduled for Friday, May 13 and Monday, May 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., invites students to the College’s Corey Union Function Room to interact with dogs and forget about the worries of exam week.

Co-sponsored by the Academic Support and Achievement Program (ASAP), the Health Promotion Office, Auxiliary Services Corporation (ASC) and Campus Activities, the day’s activities are free and open to all students, faculty and staff.

Teri Vigars, a staff member from ASAP and a golden retriever rescue expert, started the event in Spring 2010. She looked at the models of other colleges that used dogs as study tools and drew up a plan for SUNY Cortland.

The College’s plan, however, differs.

“Most programs that do this use therapy dogs.” Vigars said. “We don’t.”

SUNY Cortland asks faculty and staff to lend their dogs for the day. The event’s community component is vital, Vigars said.

“The interaction between students and faculty is phenomenal,” she said. “It really is fun to listen to them all talking and getting to know each other.”

Most of the dogs on display are rescue dogs. They include several breeds, from Maltese to Doberman.

At least four dogs interact with students at a given time. The dogs are brought together and introduced to each other before the event to ensure safety. They work on two-hour intervals and are available to be petted or played with.

More than 300 students attended past “Paws for Stress Relief” events, according to Cathy Smith, a health educator in the Health Promotions Office. Growing interest forced organizers to add an extra day to this semester’s program and utilize two student interns for planning.

Smith and the interns, seniors Jason Decker and Caitlin Sullivan, planned other stress relief stations throughout the Corey Union Function Room. They include yoga, craft making and coloring.

“It’s just a day to relax and not have to worry about your exam,” said Decker, one of the interns in charge of planning. “You forget about your exam in five minutes.”

Vigars said research suggests the presence of a dog can positively affect people, especially students suffering from exam-week anxiety.

Decker is one of those students.

“You just forget about everything besides the moment you’re in,” Decker said. “The day allows students to get in the moment.”