Arts

UOHS pet therapy offers pawsitive atmosphere to stressed-out students

Megan McArdle | Fulcrum Staff

MISSING A PET back at home? The University of Ottawa’s Student Academic Success Service (SASS) and Health Services (UOHS) have teamed up with a solution in the form of “pet therapy.”

Pet therapy gives students the opportunity to spend up to an hour and a half with one of two dogs, Tundra and Rusty Bear. Once a week, these lovable animals visit the Jock Turcot University Centre in room 211J for petting, belly rubs, and dog kisses with the goal of de-stressing students.

“In general, everyone’s been so enthusiastic about it. It’s just been really nice. In terms of the scope of things I do on campus, it’s definitely the most enjoyable,” says Audrey Giles, an associate professor in human kinetics and Tundra’s owner.

Tundra stops by the university every other Thursday at 1 p.m. while Rusty Bear visits every other Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Tundra, a former rescue dog, is a certified therapy dog who also spends time with seniors at retirement homes.

“She especially likes the seniors’ home because we go during tea and cookie time and there always seems to be crumbs on the floor for Tundra,” says Giles.

Rusty Bear, a golden retriever, also volunteers outside of pet therapy at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

UOHS Health Promotion manager Kristine Houde says pet therapy is one of the more popular student activities offered on campus. Anywhere from 20 to 40 students will drop by for as little as five minutes to the full hour and a half.

“Some of our students are dealing with anxiety and depression and they specifically come here week after week, and they find that it’s a big stress reliever for them,” says Houde. “To be able to share love with a dog, they find that they get the same benefits of having that interaction without the stress of having to interact with another human being, which causes anxiety for them.”

After being in the pet therapy room for a short time, you can see the positive effects the dogs have on students—one of which is the wide smiles on the students’ faces as they exit the room.

UOHS plans to continue pet therapy next year. Although Tundra will not be present next September, SASS is in the process of training and certifying Sassy, a dog owned by one of the SASS counsellors.

For more information on pet therapy and other Health Services programs, visit uottawa.ca/health.