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Therapy dogs allow students to 'paws' for finals

Student petting dogLamar University students had the opportunity to relax with therapy dogs provided by Paws 4 Love Southeast Texas Pet Therapy.

The event, organized by Sara Gubala, an instructor of political science, and Karen Nichols, coordinator of reference services and adjunct professor for the Department of Communications, is being hosted in the Mary and John Gray Library on several days throughout the week in order to offer multiple opportunities to engage with therapy animals.

The pets are scheduled to return to the library on Wednesday, May 2, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Thursday, May 3, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Students can benefit so much by interacting with the therapy dogs, said Gubala. It provides a nice break from studying. Dogs love everyone and sometimes hugging a dog or just spending a few minutes petting one can lower one's blood pressure and make them feel a lot better.

Five years ago this spring was our first time we did this. That first year we were invited by the Provost since it was being done at other schools in our system, said Gubala. I'm a member of Paws 4 Love, so I just simply asked other members of my group if they would be willing to bring their dogs up here. It went really well, the students were really excited. Now, it's just sort of a word of mouth thing, social media posts, that kind of stuff. We put up some fliers but everyone kind of knows, they expect us to be here each semester.

All animals remained on leashes in a partitioned area of the 1st floor of the Mary and John Gray Library for students to visit for a few hours each day as a break from their studies.

DogAt this time of year many students are missing their families and likely their pets, said Gubala. "These dogs can help provide some of that same love that they are missing as they provide unconditional love. Also, students love taking selfies. Why not come and get your next selfie for social media with a super cute tiny dog or a large mastiff or everything in between."

Animals and handlers are part of the Paws 4 Love Therapy Animals Group, and all dogs are certified through the Intermountain Therapy Animals and/or Pet Partners.

Paws 4 Love Southeast Texas Pet Therapy is a non-profit local chapter of the national organization Intermountain Therapy Animals that strives to bring animal-assisted therapy to schools, nursing homes, hospitals and other locations across Southeast Texas.

In addition to the Lamar event, Paws 4 Love members also volunteer at local hospitals, nursing homes, and other community events, Gubala said there is one other Lamar faculty member also bringing their dogs, as well as two student teams. "So they're taking breaks from their studying, which I think is nice, to come and volunteer for their fellow students. And I think that says a lot, because they're taking finals too," said Gubala.