Puppy room coming to Humber

Published On March 26, 2013 | By HN Staff | News
COURTESY MATT WORONA Dalhousie University's Student Union found success with their puppy room.

COURTESY MATT WORONA
Dalhousie University’s Student Union found success with its puppy room.

By Sarah Lennox
With files from Kristin Andrews

As exam season approaches, hospitality and tourism management students are turning to therapy dogs to alleviate  stress.

Plans aren’t finalized yet, but the students say they are organizing a dog room for one day on April  9 to help their peers unwind.

Alina Wietzoreck, a hospitality and tourism management post grad, told Kristin Andrews of Humber News that her group came up with the idea as an Earth Hour challenge instead of having to write an assignment for their globalization class.

“To entice people to get interested in Earth Hour, we figured we had to come up with a project that everybody would get really excited about,” said Wietzoreck.

“We’re all dog lovers and we’ve all seen therapeutic dogs being used in stressful situations before in the news. We figured why not see if that’s something people would be interested in?”

The promise of dogs got the group over 800 pledges and about 130 Facebook “likes” before March 23, Earth Hour, she said.

WATCH: Video of Dalhousie puppy room

“Although we might have not reached the amount we were aiming for initially, we think we have reached enough people before Earth Hour,” she said. “We’re still happy to organize this puppy room just because we know everybody’s so excited about it.”

Wietzoreck said the dogs will each have an area in the room. Students will rotate in small groups between the stations, spending about 10 minutes with each dog. This is to make sure the dogs are just as comfortable as the people, she said.

Mary Ann Mampe, volunteer coordinator for St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs in Toronto said therapy dogs love to be around people who are new to them. They aren’t the same as service dogs trained to help individuals; they’re trained to help anyone and everyone, she said.

“These dogs are therapy dogs, but they’re providing a service to everyone, “ she said. “They aren’t trained to be bond to one specific person and help them.”

The dogs are chosen because of their temperament, said Mampe. They’re trained to be friendly with everyone, licking hands and encouraging people to pet them.

“It’s completely amazing because I don’t know what people need, but my dog always does,” she said.

According to Mampe, people who spend time with therapy dogs experience a reduction in cortisol, a hormone related to stress. The dogs have been shown to have an increase in cortisol, proof that they know they’re working.

“I don’t know what it is that happens to cause the stress reduction,” she said. “Being a dog person, I just find that when I’m around them, I get happy and I forget everything else.”

Lindsay Dowling, communications and policy manager at Dalhousie Student Union, told Humber News her group’s puppy room was a great success over three days last December.

More than 1400 students visited the therapy dogs, she said.

“Everybody was extremely happy and positive about the situation,” Dowling said.

Some people questioned the safety of the dogs and of students with allergies, Dowling said, but the student union assured students the animals were trained therapy dogs and the room was sanitized after the event.

The puppy room was such a success that another one is scheduled for April 8, 9 and 10.

The final Humber event details, meanwhile, will be advertised next week on the hospitality group’s Facebook page.

The puppy room is currently booked in room F113 at the North campus.

Entry may require a small donation that will be given to Therapeutic Paws of Canada and WWF.

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