A man's best friend and a fast way to de-stress: spend time with a dog or 10!
On Friday 10 members of the Taupō branch of the charity Canine Friends Pet Therapy visited exam students at Taupō-nui-a-Tia College. The excited chatter from the students and intense close-up contact of five or so students per dog was a good indication exams were forgotten for 20 minutes or so.
National president and Taupō liaison officer Vicky Graham said she was very proud of the dogs and the way they handled the attention.
"One thing I found lovely was to hear how some of the students who prefer to spend their lunch hour alone joined in with their fellow students to meet our dogs," said Vicky.
She said the dogs and their owners were buzzing after the experience and enjoyed the visit as much as the students.
Swamped by up to five or six students at a time, there was not one single growl and all dogs were calm throughout. Canine Friends Pet Therapy member Christina MacIntyre said all the dogs had to go through a thorough training programme, with her wire fox terrier Jasper being one of the most highly trained dogs of the breed in New Zealand. She says this is quite an achievement, particularly as fox terriers are known to be highly excitable and energetic.
Science teacher Amanda Simpson is also a member of Canine Friends Pet Therapy and she brought along her 9-year-old German shorthaired pointer cross Adam, who has been coming to the college since he was 7 weeks old.
"I can remember taking the girls' shot put and the kids would be sitting on the ground waiting their turn and Adam would slowly back himself in and sit on their laps. That would be the end of the shot put," said Amanda.
She says her SPCA baby is absolutely bombproof with teenagers.
Cuddling Adam was Year 9 student Danica Pearson, 14, who said she was feeling the end-of-year exam stress.
"It's scary being the end of the year. The dogs bring a lot of joy, they are just so lovely."
Shakira Aspin, 13, also Year 9, said Covid-19 had made it hard catching up with school work and said it was a very stressful time of year for students.
"I have finished most of my tests. The dogs are lovely, friendly and beautiful," said Shakira.
Vicky said the essence of the charity is offering pet therapy to those who can no longer enjoy the benefits of owning a dog. The members frequently visit rest homes, hospitals and hospices and she says simply patting a dog can reduce stress levels, calm a racing heart and help lower blood pressure.
She said it was nice for the dogs to meet the students as most of the charity's work is with the elderly. She said a dog creates friendships, breaks down barriers and provides a kind distraction during anxious moments.
"Simply interacting with a dog, either by patting, hugging or talking to it can shift an emphasis away from feeling unwell or lonely. Dogs help people feel reconnected to the world."
Nationally, Canine Friends Pet Therapy visits patients in intensive care wards. Vicky says hospital staff say they often see visible changes in a patient's mood and this helps them in their recovery.
"We also participate in reading programmes at libraries where the calming influence of dogs sees them act as reading buddies for children with reading difficulties."
As for the scrum of students surrounding the dogs, Shakira summed it up well by saying she felt de-stressed and more chilled out before returning to class for lessons.