Pet therapy group visits campus, alleviates stress

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Photo courtesy of thefurangels.com

The Fur Angels visited the Oakland Center last week.

Alexander Gustanski, Senior Reporter

Last week, the Fur Angels charity visited the Oakland Center. Handlers brought their dogs to OU for students to engage in canine therapy. The Fur Angels visited campus to help students with their first full week of in-person classes since December.

The Fur Angels are a pet therapy group that visits schools, nursing homes and medical facilities around Southeast Michigan. The group trains prospective members and their dogs for interacting with patients. The training is done by captains from the nationwide nonprofit Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs. After training, canines and their handlers are tested and then can become certified members. The organization currently has over 60 members.

One of the members, Andrea Durham, who brought her dog Delilah, spoke about why the organization visited the campus.

“We’re here to promote positive mental health and wellness. I know that sometimes it’s hard for you guys to be away from home, maybe you’re away from your dogs or stressed out with tests or exams. So we hope that our dogs can make you feel better. I feel like the Fur Angel group is such a great group, I’m so blessed to be in it.”

Durham also talked about her canine companion.

“Delilah is a two-year-old Golden Retriever, she just became a member in August. She’s such a patient dog who can read people’s emotions well. It’s such a great way for Delilah to be with people, She really loves it.”

Jane Baerman, freshman, gave her thoughts on the Fur Angel’s visit.

“I love the dogs being here, it’s definitely the highlight of our week.” She also talked about what she thought about campus, “I like campus so far. COVID-19 has made everything different but it’s nice to have dogs here.”

Interacting with therapy dogs has been proven to help treat depression and anxiety in patients by helping them produce endorphins. When dogs interact with humans and vice versa, they produce the hormone oxytocin which helps them create a connection and attachment. Oxytocin, which is more commonly known as the love hormone, has positive health effects such as lowering blood pressure and the heart rate of both canines and humans.

A 2020 survey conducted by the Healthy Minds Study concluded that around 40 percent of college students suffered from depression and around 35 percent suffered from anxiety. Of the students surveyed, 83 percent attributed emotional or mental difficulties hurting their academic performance. Most worryingly, 45 percent of students agreed “most people would think less of someone who has received mental health treatment.” Interacting with therapy dogs is a therapy method that carries a low social stigma and is healthy for students, dogs and their owners.

If you or someone you care about is suffering from mental illness and stress, there are on-campus resources available. The OU Counseling Center offers six free therapy sessions to students alongside other resources such as counseling groups.

View available resources on their website or visit them at their Graham Health Center office.