Mugar rents puppies for finals stress relief

After the large turnout for “Puppy Parties” at Boston University’s Marsh Plaza and the School of Management in previous semesters, a Mugar Memorial Library employee organized two days during the study break for students to reserve a time to play with therapy dogs at the library.

Students have to reserve time with a dog by emailing Mugar for a 15-minute slot either on Thursday, Dec. 13 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. or Saturday, Dec. 15 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Ann Marie Dryer Shafer, the evening circulation coordinator at Mugar, said she started working on this possibility in August.

“It originally started as a trend for young adults and children who were having difficulty reading, she said. “Librarians would bring in dogs because kids weren’t stressed out about reading to a dog.”

Shafer said she coordinated with the Dog Building Opportunities for Nurturing and Emotional Support group, which organizes therapy dog volunteers.

“I picked days during the study period because I didn’t want to overlap when people were taking exams or when they were still in classes,” Shafer said.

Students who signed up to play with a therapy dog will have 15 minutes with a single dog, she said. Up to four people can pet one of the 16 volunteer dogs coming. Two dogs will be present every hour and alternate shifts.

BONES has trained more than 800 teams of people and their therapy dogs to send to retirement homes, libraries and colleges since it was founded in 2002, said Jeanne Brouillette, BONES president.

“You guys are in the middle of finals and looking for a diversion and you’re looking for a reason to get out of cubby holes to pet some dogs,” Brouillette said. “It’s creating a reason to take a deep breath.”

There have been a number of studies about how dogs relieve stress, Brouillette said.

“It’s the social contact with an animal giving you unconditional love that helps,” she said. “People who have a dog will have a chance to reconnect with that feeling they get at home.”

Shafer said she implemented reservations because she needed to prepare for large crowds and limit stress for all parties involved.

“The dogs need to be safe and the students need to be getting what they come for, but these are volunteers and we need to make sure they aren’t crushed by students asking to pet the dogs,” Shafer said. “I’m trying to make it more structured and having the waiting list gives us a good setup.”

William Murphy, College of Arts and Sciences sophomore, she he would be interested in going to Mugar to see the therapy dogs, even if he had to put his name on a waiting list.

“I can see the tangible benefits to this and it’s pretty cool so I’m definitely thinking about it,” Murphy said.

Shafer said she knew the dog therapy was going to be popular based on turnouts from previous years, but she did not expect that the spots would fill up so quickly after only putting a poster up Dec. 1.

“By 6 p.m. [Dec. 3], judging by the number of emails I had in my inbox, the reservations were already full,” Shafer said. “Just on the off chance one of the dogs wasn’t able to come I only wanted to reserve for half of the time, so if you show up there are still half of the spots available.”

Christine Lee, CAS freshman, said she would rather study in her room instead of losing time in line.

“It’s not just 15 minutes for the dog — you have to stand in line as well,” Lee said. “There might be a lot of people who do it and the chances of getting time with a dog are slim.”

Justine Velez, College of Communication junior, said crowds agitate her and it would be more stressful to go.

“It’s the only reason why I wouldn’t go,” she said. “If I were to walk by and there was nobody standing there with no line, then I would go play with the dogs.”

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