Have you ever been super overwhelmed about something and been comforted by petting something soft and fluffy? If you have, you know the tiny spark of relief you feel. Even better? You can feel that right here on campus. I sat down with Sarah Wilson, Program Director and Coordinator of Health and Wellness, as well as Undergraduate Peer Leader Caroline Campbell to learn why Wags for Wellness is the bark of the town! Here’s what they said!
Q: What is Wags for Wellness and when did it start?
Wilson: Wags for Wellness is in its second year and is an animal assisted activity at the University of Maryland. We bring therapy dog teams, consisting of at least one dog and one human who come to campus three times a month. All of the therapy dog teams are volunteers and all are certified through the local organization People. Animals. Love. (PAL). Each of our therapy dog teams visit campus multiple times a year which allows the dogs to become comfortable with the campus environment. This is also great for students, as they are able to build personal relationships with the dogs.
Q: How did you become interested in bringing this concept to UMD and what is the correlation between dogs and stress-reduction?
Wilson: Animal assisted activities have been rising in popularity across college campuses over the past several years, and for good reason. Being in the presence of a dog has the power to decrease our stress levels, help with feelings of anxiety and decrease loneliness. Stress and anxiety continue to be two of the top impediments to academic success at the University of Maryland. What’s interesting, though, is stress affects each of us differently. This means we also require different forms of stress management and self-care. What works for one person may not work for the next. It’s great when we are able to offer a multitude of options for stress management, self-care and general wellbeing. Some students rely on Wags for Wellness for a moment of comfort. It’s not uncommon for students to spend time at a pet therapy event because they are missing their own dogs.
Q: What are some events that Wags for Wellness participates in?
Campbell: Wags has made huge strides in reaching the campus community. It has expanded to the Student Union and one of the libraries on campus so that students get more opportunities to interact with the dogs. The events in the library are really awesome because you are taking the dogs to the exact location where students feel most stressed.
Q: What has been your favorite part of the program?
Campbell: By far, the reactions from students. I love to see the dogs myself, but watching other people’s faces light up is awesome. It’s really cool to be part of something that is making someone’s day. People are in their own worlds, and as soon as they see the dogs, they get really excited.
When asked about where she hopes this program is in the future, Wilson said, “ I hope this program will continue to be a source of stress relief and self-care for students. More importantly, though, I hope the program will adapt as necessary.”