Many of us with pets at home consider them as part of the family. They bring joy during hard times and provide a strong bond that could last a lifetime. Also, it’s nice to have a consistent cuddle buddy too.
Animal and human interactions have been proven to increase happiness in humans as well as to reduce stress.
According to a 2016 survey by Steven Feldman on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership, and 75% of pet owners discovered that pet ownership has helped a family member’s mental health.
“Positive human-animal interaction is related to the changes in physiological variables both in humans and animals, including a reduction of subjective psychological stress (fear, anxiety) and an increase of oxytocin levels in the brain,” said Feldman.
Everyone can agree that dogs on campus make college life a lot better. Whether visiting the animals at Paws and Relax, or stopping to pet a four-legged friend on Main Street, the dogs of Durham are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Known on campus as the “expert snuggler” North the Golden Retriever is one of the stars of Paws and Relax, held at the Hamel Recreation Center. His popularity comes with a business card and many more Instagram followers than me (@goldenboynorth).
From noon to 3 p.m., you can visit North and the other therapy dogs at the Hamel Recreation Center.
North’s owner, Sarah Gardner, has past experience in training therapy dogs before uniting with North. When the pair connected with each other, Gardner instantly knew that North was born for the job.
“He craves attention. At four months old he would sit down quietly and let little kids surround him,” said Gardner. “He was just in heaven.”
Students, including myself, love to visit the goldens of Paws and Relax for many different reasons. Some may be stressed with exams or papers and others may be missing their own furry friends at home.
“It’s super nice to have North around to pet and hang with, especially since I miss my dog at home,” says junior Emma Bulakites. I follow him on Instagram because he brings some joy when he appears on my timeline.”
Gardner reflected on her work with North and how he has allowed her to meet many new faces.
“It connects me to a lot of people and all of that connection is positive. It’s fun to do something all day long that brings people joy and a reduction of anxiety. It brings people together,” said Gardner. “An animal does a lot of things that a human can’t do by themselves.”
I know I can’t be the only one who gets excited when I see a dog walking down Main Street. Who doesn’t enjoy an occasional doggo sighting?
In addition to the animals that come visit UNH, there are many different dogs strolling the streets of Durham. From on-campus pups to local pets, they always seem to draw attention from the UNH community.
If you can believe it, there are even Instagram pages dedicated to the local pooches spotted around town (@dogzofdurham, @unhdogs). You can find adorable pictures of all kinds of Durham dogs from Labs to Poodles. Just a warning: they are too cute to handle.
There are many students who choose to bring their animals to school for a variety of reasons, including as a companion to help with the stressing that college students face.
UNH senior, Jillian Cox, has her Yorkie-Jack Russell mix Tyson on campus with her.
“When I’m on campus walking him I get stopped 24/7. He is only ten pounds and now that he is full grown. Everyone always asks if he’s a puppy or if he’s a German Shepherd and they go off when I say ‘nope he’s full grown!’”
Cox explains that having Tyson on campus has really helped her to cope with the stresses of having a busy schedule as a college student.
“Having a dog on campus has changed my life a lot. It gave me a responsibility that in the past I never had. I feel that having him has made me less anxious even on days where I am stressed out and loaded with work it’s so nice to come home to him and be able to just cuddle and play with him,” said Cox. “It takes my mind off the stress.”
Whether you are feeling lonely or need a stress reliever, make sure to visit North and the other therapy dogs at the Hamel Rec Center on Wednesdays and always keep your eyes peeled for the local doggos of Durham.