In a stressful time in the college semester of exams and finals, Percy the therapy dog is a refreshing face, a therapeutic Golden retriever owned by Melanie Shulman who offers her pet for hugs.
“Students face stress and those who live away from home, often miss their dogs as well,” said Shulman, noting that a dog you can cuddle when you’re overwhelmed with assignments and the stress of exams, does help.
Therapy dogs today often visit old-age homes, hospitals and schools, as these are places where they are most needed. Several medical studies suggest that many people are most responsive during and after such a visit by an animal. Clinical research has shown that therapy dogs not only lower stress levels and blood pressure but also leave patients and others with a feeling of companionship, comfort and confidence.
Shulman says that Percy was trained to be calm since she first had him, with training to work well with strangers, a room full of children running around and more.
“There was an activity where you’re supposed to get your dog excited by showing him a toy and then supposed to calm him down immediately. But I had already trained Percy to be calm and wait for a toy if he wanted it, so it was more difficult for me to get him excited”, said Shulman.
“I happened to be at the North campus once and saw Percy. It was very comforting because he’s such a calm dog. I’m a little envious of the students at the North campus ever since, but I try and drop in on days Percy is on campus,” said Beverley Almeida, a student at Lakeshore campus.
On Tuesdays at the Student Centre and Wednesdays on the third floor of the Learning Resource Commons, between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., Percy can be seen getting cuddled by several students.