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‘Puppy therapy’ provides late-semester stress relief for students

Three adorable golden retriever puppies offered some much needed pet therapy and helped brighten the day for students, faculty and staff at the School of Social Work on Monday, Nov. 16.

The puppies, which were brought in as part of the School’s Wellness Month activities, are being trained through the UNC Peer Assisted Wellness Support (PAWS) shelter-to-pet program at the Puppy Development Center at Penny Lane. The program, which is based within the UNC Department of Psychiatry’s Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health, was developed to help patients or clients with severe mental illness learn to train (dogs) and then prepare them for adoption.

The center, in collaboration with the paws4people foundation in Wilmington, N.C. and North Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation, created the dog-training therapy program. During their 10-week stay at Penny Lane, the puppies visit schools, hospitals, retirement homes and other community venues, which contributes to their training goals. Their overall socialization training includes: Sensitization, confidence building, and problem solving. Following training, the puppies go to a women’s correctional facility in West Virginia, where inmates help train the puppies to become service dogs that will be matched to veterans.

Research shows that individuals who interact with dogs experience greater health benefits such as lower heart and blood pressure rates.

This effort was organized by Annie Francis, coordinator of student affairs, who has planned a variety of Wellness Month activities for our students this month.