There has been no shortage of four legged friends around campus this semester. The SRC started us off with a brief visit from a much admired pooch. The GUU followed with a more laissez faire event a few weeks later, inviting a friend to bring in their own dog. The QMU followed with a more professional approach, inviting the Glasgow arm of Therapets in for the afternoon of May 2nd.
Six dogs, from docile mongrel AJ to direwolf lookalike Troy, took over Qudos to be petted and cooed over by over 100 students. Each session lasted roughly 15 minutes, with participants free to move between dogs, offering endless treats and chatting to handlers. The sessions are designed to be open and informal to allow any students to attend, be they stressed, depressed, homesick or just in need of a time-out from university day to day.
Most attendees were dog owners themselves, missing their family pets and the familiar comfort of a canine friend, but all appeared to see the benefit. Most noted that they felt more relaxed and optimistic after their sessions.
After talking with some handlers it became clear that most Therapets visits tend to be more personal than these bigger group visits: either one to one meetings with children or adults with learning, social and emotional difficulties; or regular visits to hospitals, hospices and retirement homes. The outcomes of all visits however seemed to be the same.
The therapeutic value of animal/human interaction has been researched and debated since the late 80s, though the trend for university visits only became popular in the last 5 years. Though Glasgow is not leading in this regard it certainly seems to have adopted the theory with gusto, and I personally will be stocking up on doggie treats for the next round of visits.