Wag more and stress less at Woodruff Library's pet study break
By Michaela Whatnall | Emory Report | Dec. 7, 2015
Students take a study break at last year's Pet Therapy Study Break at Emory's Woodruff Library. The event, designed to relieve the stress of studying for finals, drew about 300 students last year. Photo by Emory Libraries and Information Technology Services
Therapy dogs are returning to the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory University to help students relieve the stress of final exams. The Woodruff Library Pet Therapy Study Break, now in its fourth year, will take place Monday, Dec. 14, from noon to 4 p.m. in the Jones Room on level 3 of the library.
The free event drew nearly 300 students last year. Signing up ahead of time is recommended, but walk-ins are also welcome.
Groups of three students will get to pet and play with one of four dogs for 10 minutes. Eight dogs total will be brought to campus by volunteers from Canine Assistants, a non-profit organization based in Milton, Ga., that trains and provides service dogs for children and adults with physical disabilities or other special needs.
The therapy dog study break is one way the library's Outreach and Education Team, the host of the event, supports student learning, says Erin Mooney, outreach and education librarian.
"We're all about making students feel comfortable in the library and letting them know we're here for them," says Mooney. "We want to give them a refreshing break from all of the stress that they're under."
The positive effect the dogs have on the students is evident right away.
"The students get really excited about the dogs," Mooney says. She fondly recalls a young man at a past event who eagerly said, "Let's go pet some pooches!" while waiting for his turn. "They come out after they finish, and they're just beaming," Mooney says. "They love it. It makes all the volunteers feel good to see how happy the students are when they spend time with the dogs."
The Outreach and Education Team has hosted other study breaks in the past, usually revolving around providing sweets such as donuts or ice cream sundaes. Free food is always a big hit, says Mooney, but the Pet Therapy Study Breaks offer a different, relaxing activity.
"You walk in there and it's quiet and calm like a big group meditation session," she says. "The whole experience is very calming. Even the dogs get into the mood – one year a dog got petted so much he just completely fell asleep."
The Woodruff Library started its dog study breaks in 2012, modeling them after a similar event at Emory's Hugh F. MacMillan Law Library held earlier that year. The popularity of canine study break programs at universities across the country has increased in recent years. Mooney receives frequent inquiries from people who have read about Emory's program and want to emulate it, recognizing the calming presence a dog can have on students who are stressed and missing one of the common comforts of home.
In fact, Emory's Counseling and Psychological Services Center just added their first canine staff member – Beowulf, a therapy-dog-in-training who is on campus every weekday to provide emotional support to university students. Beowulf will be stopping by the Pet Therapy Study Break to visit students.
The library's Pet Therapy Study Breaks have continued to be highly popular among students. College senior Ariana Arias has attended the event every year since she was a freshman, and plans to attend this year too.
"It's one of my favorite experiences as an Emory student," Arias says. "I love animals so much and they always seem to love and care in such a powerful way. They reassure you and calm you down. It's incredible and I look forward to it every year."
College senior Jun Cai, who attended the Pet Therapy Study Break last year, agrees that interacting with the dogs successfully lowers stress.
"Seeing the carefree attitudes of the dogs makes you almost forget all the exams and papers you have piled up," he says. "I think we all wish to be like these dogs during finals."