It was a gloomy day on the campus of UMass Amherst yesterday. The rain was coming down in torrents. The clouds were thick and low. And the mood of the students matched the unsettled weather outside. They had much on their minds as they filed through the open doors of the Student Union Ballroom. Mid-terms. School adjustment problems, a lock-down on campus, the political scene – all seemed a heavy weight in meet of relief.
The answer to their problems came in the form of twenty, friendly, non-judgmental Bright Spot therapy dogs gathered in the Student Union Ballroom, there to offer the unconditional love that only a dog can provide. More than any other time I have been at our Therapy Dog Stress-Relief Events on campus, have I found the students feeling so down. One young woman told me that she was having such a bad day that she had come to hang out with the dogs the entire time we were there.
As students gathered around my therapy dog King, they talked about the pressures building around their upcoming exams. Some talked about last week’s lock-down and the unsettled feeling such an event imposed. Bernie Sanders had spoken on campus the other night which sparked a discussion about politics and the upcoming Tuesday primary. Then, there were the students who missed their own dogs so much… they just wanted to cuddle with a surrogate dog for awhile.
Smiles and laughter replaced stress and unhappiness, as students sat talking, petting and hugging the dogs. Most students circulated the room, spending time with each therapy dog. One young man kept repeating Thank You, Thank You for bringing the dogs. They help so much.
Our college Therapy Dog Stress-Relief Events are always heartwarming, uplifting affairs, but I must say that my step was particularly lighter, my smile much broader as King and I headed back out in the torrential rain to drive back home yesterday. The wonderful feeling I get when watching one of my dogs brighten the day for someone in need never gets stale. King did his job as a therapy dog beautifully. He knew he had done well… as he happily plodded through the puddles and mud, head held high and a smile on his face.