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Therapy dogs ease end of semester stress at UMO

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ORONO - Things tend to get a little hairy during finals week at colleges and universities around the state, but the University of Maine in Orono helped ease the stress its students may have been feeling by bringing therapy dogs on campus.

"Studies have proven that petting a dog can lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety," said Rebecca Henderson of Renaissance Dogs in Holden. "What other time are students more stressed than during finals week?"

Henderson said visiting with the dogs is great for someone who is missing their own pet or wants a five-minute diversion from studying. That's why she brought her own Papillon pooches, "Keeper" and "Finch," to the University's Fogler Library during finals week.

"We really think of this as the students’ library," said Gretchen Gfeller, Fogler’s public relations manager. "[The students] brought the suggestion to us, so we wanted to do it for them."

The library staff looked into similar programs being offered at the University of New Hampshire and Massachusetts Institute of Technology before forging ahead with the idea of inviting canine calming agents to the school. And once the idea was approved, the staff didn't have to look far for the four-legged visitors. Patty Counihan, the director of UMaine's career services, brought her 6-year-old Sheltie, Joey, to the university. He recently passed his certification test with Therapy Dogs International.

"Joey is so sweet and cuddly, not to mention soft and furry, and petting him is really soothing," said Counihan. "I know how nice it is to cuddle with Joey when I've had a bad day or if I'm stressed. He will just crawl in your lap and snuggle in."

Gfeller said if the event is well received this year, the library would like to expand the program and host the dogs two or three times a semester in addition to finals week.

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