Dawgs need dogs

The need for full-time therapy dogs in at Ferris

With midterm exams approaching, the growing academic workload calls for solutions for students who are struggling to keep up.

Throughout the country, colleges have found that petting therapy is a premier way to help students de-stress when assignments and responsibilities seem to build into a never ending list. Ferris has experimented with bringing therapy dogs to students and the community before. The last time therapy dogs visited the community was May of 2022.

Here’s the problem, though. The animals only come and visit the community every once in a while. With mental health being a growing topic of discussion, especially in the lives of college students, this gap poses an issue. Despite many universities utilizing therapy dogs and animals for students when heavy testing seasons come around, there are many other occasions that warrant the use of therapy dogs.

A study done by Illinois State University concluded that animal assisted activities are not directed towards specific therapy goals. Instead, they’re pointed towards the goal of improved functions in humans, such as their physical, emotional, cognitive and social abilities, which can be affected by the growing responsibilities of being a college student. Animal assisted activities include a wide range of interactions between people and animals, including petting a cat, feeding a pet goldfish, playing with puppies, riding a horse and taking your dog out for a walk.

The same study concluded that an individual’s exposure to animal assisted activities, or pet therapy, lowered their physiological stress. Additionally, one’s heart rate and blood pressure were found to decrease after prolonged exposure to the animals. The major benefits that have been found after the implementation of animal assisted activities leads us to ask why this practice hasn’t been implemented in schools permanently.

What is holding the university back from bringing animals in more often? Bringing in animals from local shelters for students to interact with when the mounting stress gets to be too much seems like an easy thing to do. Big Rapids has two animal shelters near city limits, Mecosta County Animal Control and the Animal Rescue Coalition. Partnering with these two shelters wouldn’t just allow students a chance to find much needed happiness and stress relief, it would also give the animals who need an owner a chance to find their forever home.

It’s a win-win situation, really. Often overlooked, the animals in these shelters are desperate to find that special connection between a pet and their owner. The commercials on TV that highlight the pets in their cages looking downtrodden and depressed make anybody who watch it sad. Why not give a chance for these animals to find their forever home too?

Bringing these animals into FLITE multiple days a week would improve lives in more ways than one. Students will be able to experience research backed pet therapy, and the animals in these shelters would get a chance to spread their love to so many people. The shelters can find new owners for their pets, and the mental health in the Ferris student body would improve.