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Dogs bring stress relief to studying students at Boston area colleges during finals

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  December 14, 2012 11:40 AM

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(Photo by Johanna Kaiser for boston.com) Massachusetts Institute of Technology students pet therapy dogs as part of the school's "Cookies and Canines" study break designed to help relieve stress during finals.

By Johanna Kaiser, Town Correspondent

Stressed out college students slogging through the end of the semester one test and paper at a time are finding comfort with friends of the furry kind this finals season.

Colleges in and around Boston have been inviting dogs to their campuses over the past few weeks for students to pet and interact with them. 

The meet-and-greets with trained therapy dogs are set up in an effort to help students relieve some of the stress and anxiety that finals bring.

Area schools including Boston University and Bentley University welcomed dogs the month, and Tufts University brought in the canine companions for midterms.

At Suffolk University last week, two white dogs named Kennedy and Duffy spent time with students as part of the school’s iStudy event that offered academic coaches, free food, and petting time with puppies.   

“It’s such a simple thing, but it has such a big impact,” Ellen Duranceau, program manager of scholarly publishing and licensing for Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Libraries, said Thursday at MIT’s “Cookies and Canines” event.

This is the second year the school has hosted the study break offering snacks, drinks, and dogs during finals to help students relieve stress with the help of the non-profit Dogs Building Opportunities for Nurturing and Emotional Support, or Dog B.O.N.E.S.

Dog B.O.N.E.S., a volunteer organization, brings trained therapy dogs to hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and schools, and to people who would benefit from the therapeutic contact with the dogs.

Duranceau, a Dog B.O.N.E.S. volunteer, said the demand for dog visits from colleges and universities has grown significantly over the past few years because students seem to love the chance to pet dogs that help relieve stress and even remind them of their own pets waiting at home.

“It makes you feel really good and dogs have that unconditional love,” said Duranceau as smiling students pet and played with nine dogs, big and small, sitting in various locations near the Hayden Library.

Duranceau said interest in therapy dogs has increased as more evidence is found that petting dogs lowers blood pressure and causes the body to release a hormone that relieves stress. 

The signs of which could be seen among the dozens of students laughing and talking and relaxing as they spent time with each dog.

“The science has caught up with what we have known for years,” said Duranceau. “It’s just a magical thing.”

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(Photo by Johanna Kaiser for boston.com) Dog B.O.N.E.S therapy dog Oliver was one of nine dogs that visited with MIT students for a stress-reducing study break Thursday afternoon.

Kaiser can be reached at johanna.yourtown@gmail.com. For more news about your city, town, neighborhood, or campus, visit boston.com's Your Town homepage.

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