PAWS program goes year-round

July 14, 2017
Two students having an interaction with a dog.

The students have spoken, and the therapy dogs have wagged their tails in reply.

Due to popular demand, there will no longer be a summer pause for PAWS (Pet Away Worry and Stress)—the popular program aimed at reducing stress for students and other members of the U of M community.

In June, PAWS had its first-ever summer session, and monthly sessions will continue through August. This fall the program will expand further; the Recreation and Wellness Center on the East Bank will become a permanent location, and PAWS will visit the St. Paul Student Center each Tuesday. 

Tanya Bailey, an animal-assisted interactions specialist and director of PAWS, says summer can be a stressful time for students, without the typical network of peers and friends around. “When students are struggling, there may not be as many places for them,” she says. “This offers a monthly grounding opportunity.”

PAWS sessions feature registered therapy animal teams, and the main standbys are dogs, bunnies, and chickens. Other therapy animals that make appearances include miniature horses, Guinea pigs, cats, and fancy rats.

The addition of summer hours was an obvious joy for students visiting Boynton on July 12. Halfway through the session more than 40 had stopped by, including senior Arthur Leow, who during the school year is a weekly regular. “What’s not to appreciate?” he says. “Lovely fluffy animals and great conversation.”

Thoughts like that bring similar smiles to the animals’ handlers. John Shaw—owner of Dodger, a playful Goldendoodle—wishes there were even more sessions of PAWS. “I think it’s the greatest thing ever developed,” he says. “It alleviates stress before it’s a problem, and it seems like there’s all different types of people appreciating it. You come here and you can’t help but be relaxed.”