Bulldogs pet away finals stress through PAWS
Once a month, a section of the Kirby Student Center is flooded with weary college students as dogs, cats, and even the occasional pair of ponies come to visit campus.
PAWS, an acronym for Pet Away Worry and Stress, "is a program designed to lower stress levels in students, faculty, and staff" through bringing animals to campus, many of whom are registered therapy animals. If the animals aren't registered therapy animals, they're typically either in therapy training or have completed obedience training.
The excitement for PAWS events shows. When the animals first begin to show up in Kirby Student Center around 11 a.m., that section of the student lounge grows a crowd of excited students. Students coo and pet the animals and ask their owners a myriad of questions: What's their name? How old are they? What kind of dog are they?
One registered therapy dog, a Great Pyrenees named Makoons, even has his own Instagram page. His name means "bear cub" in Ojibwe.
According to Makoons' owner, Kevin Browne, Makoons has worked everything from "kids' camps to nursing homes." His UMD PAWS biography, featured at the location of PAWS events, notes that the gentle disposition of his breed helps Makoons adapt to the needs of any age group.
Other dogs, like a pair of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels named Bonnie and Charmer, who are eight and two years old respectively, have completed obedience and agility training. Bonnie has 32 medals spread across obedience and agility, and Charmer is working his way up the ranks with four medals so far.
"It's so funny," said Bonnie and Charmer's owner, Nancy Medved. "Sometimes people ask me 'Can I pet your dog?' And I'm like 'That's why I'm here!'"
She noted that the breed's high energy is what makes them good agility dogs.
One of the collaborative event sponsors is Animal Allies, a humane society in Duluth. Some of the pets from PAWS were adopted from Animal Allies.
Two cats who often attend PAWS, Sebastian and Tiramisu, were adopted from Animal Allies. College students who fall on the "cat people" side of the cat versus dog debate wait patiently to pet them when they visit campus.
The December PAWS event is part of Stress-less Week put on by the Kathryn A. Martin Library and other sponsors. The goal of Stress-less Week is to offer "a full week of stress reduction activities to our student community." With finals coming up next week, the timing is more than coincidental.
Included among the events hosted during the week are yoga, knitting, crafts, free coffee and hot chocolate in the mornings, button-making, and, of course, PAWS.
Stress-less Week will conclude on Friday, Dec. 7. The next PAWS event will be on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, after students return from winter break.