Four-legged visitor helps stressed out students in Norwich

Pets As Therapy dogs getting plenty of attention from students at the University of East Anglia. PAT dog Hank. Photo: Steve Adams Pets As Therapy dogs getting plenty of attention from students at the University of East Anglia. PAT dog Hank. Photo: Steve Adams

Friday, June 6, 2014
8:49 AM

Students suffering from health problems and exam stress welcomed a group of four-legged visitors onto campus to help ease their anxiety.

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Dogs and therapy

Pets As Therapy has 5,000 dogs and cats visiting hospitals, hospices and care homes throughout the country.

Each pet is owned by a registered volunteer and has their temperament assessed before taking part in the scheme.

In 2010, PAT launched their READ2DOGS programme, in which schoolchildren practice their reading skills by reading to dogs.

Any cat or dog can become a PAT pet as long as it has been with its owner for 6 months and is over 9 months old.

For more information, email reception@petsastherapy.org

Six dogs and their owners took part in a therapy session the University of East Anglia yesterday as part of a pilot scheme for a Pets As Therapy (PAT) Club.

Susan Peters Corbett from the UEA Dean of Students said: “We hope by testing the possibility of introducing a UEA PAT club we can provide a therapeutic medium for the recovery of self-esteem, help lonely or depressed students to feel less isolated and enhance the wellbeing of vulnerable students.”

During the session, 300 students were invited to spend time with each of the trained therapy dogs and their owners, including Leonberger-poodle cross Hank.

Hank’s owner Valerie Mayers, from Mattishall, said: “I’m a therapist myself and I just decided because he’s got such a lovely nature he could give something back.

Pets As Therapy dogs getting plenty of attention from students at the University of East Anglia. Pat dog Jack.Photo: Steve AdamsPets As Therapy dogs getting plenty of attention from students at the University of East Anglia. Pat dog Jack.Photo: Steve Adams

“We also go to an Alzheimer’s home, dogs give something that humans can’t and he loves it, he loves the attention.”

An initial trial was held at UEA in March and participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire about how they felt after spending time with the dogs.

The survey showed that 77% of students said they felt happier, more cheerful and in a better mood overall and 80% said they felt less stressed.

One student who attended both sessions is 24-year-old applied translation student Michaela Muella.

Pets As Therapy dogs getting plenty of attention from students at the University of East Anglia. Pat dog Jack.Photo: Steve AdamsPets As Therapy dogs getting plenty of attention from students at the University of East Anglia. Pat dog Jack.Photo: Steve Adams

She has chronic rheumatoid arthritis and mainly relies on a special scooter as she has mobility problems.

She said: “I’m writing my dissertation at the moment and it’s stressful.

“I’ve got pets at home that I miss and having the dogs so close is nice, I’ll definitely keep coming.”

Carole Adam, a PAT volunteer and area coordinator said the dogs go to hospitals, hospices and schools and she hopes the UEA pilot will work just as well.

She said: “This would be the first regular university PAT club in the country which would be great, the dogs help produce a feeling of well-being and can reduce the effects of depression.”

For more information visit petsastherapy.org

Have you been helped by a therapy dog? Email polly.grice@archant.co.uk

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