By Emma Lyons
The Office of Wellness Education and Framingham State Activity Board (FSAB) hosted the semi-annual Pause 4 Paws event in the Alumni Room Dec. 5 and 7.
Pamela Lehmberg, coordinator of Wellness Education, said the Office of Wellness Education has been running the Pause 4 Paws events during the last week of classes every semester for the past 15 years.
On Monday, 125 students attended the event and on Wednesday, 120 students attended. On each day, four therapy dogs were brought in for students, Lehmberg said.
She said next semester, her office is planning to bring a therapy dog to campus once a month to visit residence halls. Her office had tried out different places to bring the therapy dogs throughout the fall semester, but “of all the places we tried it, the best place was in a residence hall.”
She said her office continues to host these events because she and her staff can tell that students look forward to them, and they are well attended. “Just for that reason alone, we would keep doing it, but on top of that, there is good evidence that shows that being with pet therapy dogs really does help.”
Haley Hadge, a SEALS peer health mentor and junior English major, assisted in setting up a table for students to make “calm kits.” She said there is usually a high attendance at events like Pause 4 Paws. “There's so much science around how petting an animal or a dog or a cat releases stress-reducing hormones.”
According to an article published in the National Library of Medicine, research shows that 58.4% of college students have felt “overwhelming anxiety” and 65% “felt very sad.”
According to the American Kennel Club website, a study done by Emily Ward-Griffin and her colleagues at the University of British Columbia showed that “it seems that a single, drop-in session with a therapy dog can have a large and instant effect on the well-being of university students.”
Lehmberg said the event helps promote connection among students, which is important because “if we look at the data, over 50% of undergraduate students are lonely.”
She said the University has a “memorandum of understanding” with the Pets & People Foundation, and has been working through them to get therapy dogs for these events.
Lehmberg usually reaches out to Pets & People during the summer to request dogs for the dates of the events. She said each dog usually stays at the event for no longer than one hour.
In addition to having therapy dogs, SEALS held a table with information about stress reduction and general health promotion. FSAB hosted a table where students could make their own slime and stress balls and collect Play-Doh - along with tables set out with coloring sheets.
Annalisa Marzeotti, FSAB president and a senior criminology major, said FSAB has participated in the event for about three years.
Marzeotti said these events are “absolutely” helpful for students and make a difference. “Just as a mental health advocate, I really can see the difference among all of the students on campus. We might not have students that come to our regular events like Bingos, but I always see them at this specific event.”
Avry Guilbert, a SEALS peer health mentor and sophomore psychology major, said the final-exam period is a stressful time for all students, and is “also a time that people may miss their own pets at home, since many students may be stuck on campus studying.”
She said she hopes students had fun at the events, and that they see the staff at the Health and Wellness Center cares about them.
Maya Brown, a freshman fashion design and retailing major, said events like Pause 4 Paws are helpful for students because they are able to release emotions they’ve been bottling up. “This is just a place to really just focus on you, and I feel like it’s really hard to do that in school.”
Nashani Swain, a sophomore psychology major, said she doesn’t think mental health is a priority for college students. “As much as we would like to prioritize mental health, I think that it’s really hard to do that.”
Bridget Conceison, a junior early childhood education major, said she had attended Pause 4 Paws events in previous years and wanted to go to the event before her class. “I hadn’t met this dog yet, so it was fun to meet them.”
Laura Abreu, a junior elementary education major, said mental health is very important for college students and shouldn’t be “put on the back burner.
“Mental health comes first - then everything else,” she said.