We need therapy dogs year-round, not just during exams

A puppy a day keeps the stress away

I am told daily that these four years at UM will be the best years of my life. And, for the most part, I’m certain this suggestion is accurate. But, during the tough times throughout the semester when students are swamped with work and have the unfortunate realization that it isn’t even finals yet, having someone tell you these are the best times of your life kind of puts a damper on your day.

Regardless of one’s major, multiple exams, papers, and presentations can easily overwhelm students and increase their already stressful lives. Luckily, on our campus and many others, fluffy, adorable therapy dogs offer a much-needed rehabilitation for students before and after finals.

However, the therapy dogs at the University of Michigan are seemingly always around whenever I am not. Walking to exams, I hear people talking on and on about the beautiful little puppy they got to hold for hours on end. Leaving my exams, I pass fliers promoting the presence of the dogs on campus for the day after I am done with everything.

I know I’m not alone in experiencing this frustration. As if our stress before exams wasn’t enough, that stress only increases when our plans to aggressively snuggle the therapy pups are thwarted because the dogs somehow evaporate between our Spanish class and dinnertime.

My plea to the University of Michigan is simple: Please keep these stress-relieving furballs accessible to students year-round. After pulling an all-nighter, it would be a dream come true to walk onto campus the following morning and be able to hug a puppy after turning in that quarterly essay. I know one critical essay may not match the insanity of finals week, but with the demands of college, stress can come at any time, in any form. Managing stress levels throughout the semester is key to a healthy student body.

Image by Christy Flom.

If you’re worried about the extra maintenance that full-time puppies would require, don’t forget you have an army of thousands of pet-deprived college students who would gladly spare an hour to walk a dog across campus. Seriously, I know people who attend certain house parties specifically because they heard the tenants own a dog. The options and opportunities are endless for bringing dogs to campuses for good, they just need to be explored, and, oh yes, ultimately paid for by someone.

I am highly aware of the rising costs of college tuition, and I have full confidence that each and every university uses their tuition money carefully, spending every cent to help better the lives of the students. Obviously the University has bigger fish to fry such as diversity, global recognition, and public education rankings to dominate so us students understand that asking the university to fund yet another undertaking may not be feasible. Hence, I turn to the Alumni Association.

With one of the largest associations in the country, Michigan Alumni could pass on a new legacy bigger than the billion dollar renovations to the Big House. Since the sanity of students can be a pretty significant indicator how much one will give back after graduation, therapy dogs could be a wise investment for everyone involved. And, a legacy of dogs is much better than spending millions on a new building only to have one’s last name be turned into a joke by students on campus tours.

Image by Bill Flom. He had to hold a tennis ball to get my dog’s attention.

Imagine the emotional baggage graduates will bring into the workforce if stress isn’t properly managed before it’s too late. I mean, we already have to face a bad economy, a new stock market crash (thanks China), and the real possibility of never having the same amount of money, vacation time, or health benefits as our parents’ generation. I think the least the University or Alumni can do for us is give us loving, cuddly dogs to play with on a daily basis.

To drive this point home: The excitement students would feel at the announcement of semester-long therapy dogs would be matched only by the unlikely news that the government has finally lowered the drinking age to 19. Because everyone knows that the only thing Umich students would love more than beer is a four-legged friend.

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