Finals week has college students everywhere hitting the books hard this week, often with no breaks in between. But the University of Central Arkansas is encouraging everyone on their campus to take one break with a special furry friend.
Nibs, a therapy dog, has been visiting students this week in the school's library, giving out stress relief one belly rub at a time.
“They're initial reaction when they see the therapy dogs, if they like dogs that is, is for them to squeal out loud,” said Dr. Susan Sobel, Counseling Center Director.
It's no secret college students carry a heavy load.
"I think it gives them a bit of a distraction,” she said.
That load is doubled, even tripled sometimes, during finals.
“People are in here 24 hours a day, drinking coffee, and falling asleep in their books literally,” said one student.
The Occupational Therapy Program sponsored the service in hopes of helping students to relax.
“Just petting them can have physiological responses that are soothing,” Dr. Sobel said. “The college students really seem to respond to having dogs around, especially if they had them at home.”
Research has proven the benefit of animals in times of high stress.
Nibs know 40 commands, including opening doors and retrieving dropped items. She can also “visit” with clients by placing her head on their laps.
"I have a dog at home and always go to her when I'm stressed,” said another student.
More 100 students have come by the library to pet and play with Nibs.
“It's a really sweet dog, Nibs is amazing. She's really soft. I don't know what it is, but it's something psychological about it that makes me so much happier when I pet her,” a student said.
The Student Government Association is looking to add a space on campus where pet therapy can be offered on a regular basis, not just at finals or invited presentations.