AVA GOODWIN, Special to The Denisonian—To help students through an increasingly difficult and long semester, The Wellness Center re-introduced “Paws and Relax,” a time for students to connect with certified therapy dogs every Tuesday and Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. in Slayter Union. 

Vice President of Student Development Alex Miller said that the therapy dogs are “back by popular demand” after students expressed a desire to administrators for more ways to de-stress, given the lack of a Spring break and the condensed format of many classes. 

According to a Wellness Center newsletter sent Feb. 3, there are a myriad of physical, social, cognitive and emotional benefits associated with therapy animals, such as reduced blood pressure, increased levels of oxytocin, greater self esteem, better moods and decreased levels of anxiety. 

The Paws and Relax events include “therapy dogs, coloring pages, make your own stress ball or aromatherapy sock, healthy snacks and more.”

Alina Mayton ‘24, though a self-described cat person, said that the dogs “are the best thing to happen” on campus this semester. She said that she attends Paws and Relax nearly every Tuesday and Wednesday. 

“I feel so happy and like a little kid with no stress or worries about anything,” she said. “I just get to cuddle the dogs and spend time with others and talk with the owners. It helps me with my anxiety.”

Mark Briegel, a member of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, has been working with Denison since October of 2013. Students can meet his three golden retrievers—Maverick, Cooper Bentley and Harbor Lee—at the Paws and Relax sessions. Briegel said that he loves seeing students, many of whom have pets at home, reconnect and de-stress with his animals. 

“Being a therapy dog handler is very rewarding in [the] sense of seeing how your dog changes a person’s world for that small moment in time. We don’t get paid. It is all volunteer,” he said. “Our reward is the smiles brought to people’s faces when they see your dog which is priceless.”

Briegel sympathized with students and said he is glad that they are given the opportunity to “let everything go” and focus on the dog, “even if it is for only a couple of minutes.”

The Wellness Center encourages anyone who feels that they are under too much stress to make an appointment at https://denison.edu/campus/health/hours-appointments.