Man's best friend: therapy dogs at UB

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The Spectrum

Pamela Rose, the Web Services and Library Promotions coordinator of the Health Sciences Library, has worked at UB for 47 years. She has owned 11 cats and is a founding member of different local animal organizations, including Therapy Animals of Western New York and Buffalo Companion Animal Network. She is considered the "go-to" animal person amongst her friends and colleagues and has rescued many animals in her life.

Her committed involvement with UB and to the welfare animals has helped launch the therapy dog program at UB.

The library staff at the Health Sciences Library initially came up with the idea but the introduction of therapy dogs to UB came when plans to being Stress Relief Week were being made in the fall semester of 2011.

Everyone was interested in providing a week to help students relax with massages, relaxation exercises, music and snacks, according to Rose. Her desire to introduce animals and get them involved on campus has helped her develop the plan to add therapy dogs to the list of relaxation tactics.

Amy Lyons, the associate director of the Health Sciences Library, first thought of the idea of Stress Relief Week. Lyons and Rose started talking about setting up a pot of coffee and having snacks for the students.

Rose, who had been involved with different animal organizations, including Therapy Animals of Western New York, had been pushing to bring dogs into the library for a number of years. Lyons suggested it was time to bring Rose's two worlds together and in early May, and certified therapy dogs were permitted into the libraries for Stress Relief Week.

Interactions with therapy dogs can decrease blood pressure and cholesterol in humans, which is ideal for students who are stressed out about final exams and the end of the semester, according to Rose.

All dogs are certified through reputable agencies before being brought in and can be as young as 1 year old. Rose said the best candidates for therapy dogs are dogs that have low temperaments and have strong connections with their owners. These traits often encourage students with a fear of dogs to visit and try to overcome it overtime, she said.

As a therapy dog owner and a member of therapy dog and animal organizations in Buffalo, Rose said one of the biggest delights in having a therapy dog is bringing them into public areas. She loves being told she has helped improve a person's day by this small act.

When students walk into the library or Student Union rooms and see the therapy dogs, Rose can see a glow of happiness on their faces.

Lateya Jackson, a freshman nursing major, saw a flyer for the therapy dogs and, because she has been stressed about finals, she stopped by to see them.

"The dogs were so cute and friendly, playing with them really calmed me down and took my mind off of all of the stress," Jackson said."They just walk up to you with their tails wagging and tongues out. I felt myself relax the minute I walked into the room and saw them."

She plans to come back to see the dogs next time they are on campus.

Not only has Rose seen the significant impact therapy dogs can leave on the lives of students on campus, but she can also see their impact in her personal life. After training her Bernese mountain dog, Sophia, to become a part of a therapy dog team, Rose said she has a much stronger relationship with Sophia and a bigger appreciation for dogs.

"Because of my experience with cats and my position as the Feline Behavior Counselor for the Buffalo Humane Society, I was more of a cat person," Rose said. "However, after handling a dog who required a lot of training, I have learned a lot about the power of positive reinforcement and how it can strengthen the relationship between an owner and their dog."

Originally introduced on South Campus, the therapy dogs and their owners now visit both North and South Campus during Stress Relief Week and sometimes stop by at random times throughout the school year. Although the staff only brings in dogs as therapy animals, they are considering offering other therapy animals in the future, according to Rose. The next Stress Relief Week is scheduled for May 1-3 in Lockwood Library and the Health Sciences Library from 11 p.m. to 3 p.m.

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