Helping Paws, Mini-THON De-stress with Dogs

By Eve Neider, Staff Writer

In a tri-benefit effort Mini-THON, Helping Paws and a group of therapy dogs came together to raise money for their organizations and to de-stress mid-term bound students on Jan. 19 in the main gymnasium’s lobby.

Student Mini-THON organizer Kate Bailey, inspired by college campuses that have organized similar events to assist stressed out undergraduates, said she hopes the event raises awareness about service dogs and K-9 adoption.

Studies have shown that pet therapy has had positive results on people’s health as is the case with Harvard therapists Christine Junge and Ann MacDonald. Their studies indicate that dogs have been shown to lower blood pressure and improve recovery from heart disease.

“Pets also improve people’s psychological well-being and self-esteem,” their studies have indicated.

Heidi, a pet-therapy handler, trains a Golden Retriever Cody, said therapy dogs have to have quite a few characteristics in order to be qualified for work. They also must be vetted.

“[Cody has] had approximately six months of training. We went to a nursing home for his training, and he has to be immune to all sorts of sounds like the sound of crutches and wheelchairs,” Heidi said. She added that therapy dogs also help trauma victims and the aging.

Therapy dog evaluators look at dogs’ demeanors, levels of patience, and their ability to interact with people.

Dawn, another dog trainer at the even said her therapy dog, Chloe, is “sometimes brought into physical therapy exercises, like holding hula hoops.”

Prior to certification, Chloe was evaluated on her demeanor during two sessions to a rehab center. Dawn added that good therapy dogs “need to love people, and be smart enough to understand they are there to work.”

Patricia, who was accompanied by a therapy dog named Yomin, said dog training consists of “a lot of meeting and greeting and going out every day to socialize, along with a certain amount of obedience classes.”

Patricia said that therapy pets can also help children who have had bad experiences with dogs. Showing that the dog is under control helps children realize that they are safe.Yomin participates in Read to a Dog, where first grade students, who are nervous around dogs, read to them.

A few MHS students said the event was a positive, particularly at this time of the year. Freshmen Ava Faraglia and Ashley Petko, said the dogs helped take their minds off of mid-term  stress.

Catherine Connolly said Helping Paws and Mini-THON “should definitely have this again”

Guidance counselor Mr.Ruminski said if a pet isn’t there to comfort you in your time of stress, then you have to remember that “you are in control.” He said to offset academic stress, students should make sure they are getting enough sleep and exercise. He added that listening to music or to whatever helps you cope and relax will also help.

“Working ahead or just dedicating time to study on a regular basis will reduce the amount of stress you experience,” Mr. Ruminski said, adding that stress can be a positive if you use it to motivate yourself.

“The stress from midterms can move you to action, [can help you] achieve the goals you set for them and [can] lead to a feeling of success and satisfaction,” he said.