Therapy dogs have happiness down pat

Therapy dogs visit college

ALLIE MCPHEE
Last updated 08:45 17/07/2014
kohei sato
DAVID UNWIN/Fairfax NZ

PUPPY LOVE: Kohei Sato gets a kiss from Woody at the International Pacific College library in Palmerston North yesterday. Visits by dogs help ease students’ homesickness and stress.

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Eight dogs were greeted with happy squeals and laughter by students at the International Pacific College library yesterday.

It was the second visit this year by the dogs and handlers from Canine Friends Pet Therapy to help international students deal with stress and homesickness.

Pamela Peters, an IPC teacher of English as a second language as well as a human-animal studies lecturer, organises for Canine Friends to visit at stressful times during the term and says the visits are popular with students and staff.

"Most of the students are living on campus and are living away from home," Peters said. "They miss their pets and they don't usually have an opportunity to interact with dogs.

"It's that time of term when lots of assignments are due so I thought it would be a good time to organise a visit and hopefully reduce stress," she said.

"It made them feel good. Some said it was their first opportunity to pat a dog in New Zealand."

Peters said the Canine Friends visits were also a good opportunity for international students to interact with people from the community and improve their language and social skills.

Ann Evans, from Canine Friends Pet Therapy, said it was unusual for them to visit education providers like IPC but they wanted to share their dogs with everyone.

"Usually Canine Friends visit rest homes and hospitals. We can bring a dog into a room of people and it will bring a smile to their faces. Their eyes will just light up."

Evans said the dogs were assessed for their behaviour, as they could be poked and prodded and pulled around, particularly in rest homes, and they needed to remain completely unfazed.

There are around 400 dogs in the programme in New Zealand. It has been running for 24 years and has been in Palmerston North for six years.

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