Puppies help Fairbanks college students get through final exams

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) As the semester comes to an end, students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks are taking finals. With finals comes stress. The university is using a new and unconventional method to help students combat this stress, therapy dogs.

Students at University of Alaska Fairbanks play with Athena, a dog brought to the university to help them deal with stress from finals week. (John Dougherty/KTVF)

"Students get really stressed out during finals week and bringing in animals… is just a really nice comfort thing for them, a good study break," said Karen Jensen the Library Director at UAF.

The university works with Companion, Inc. a nonprofit that brings therapy pets to people in need in Fairbanks.

"She is a sweet girl, she is a rescue, which is the best of the best. It is definitely good for students," photography student Tristan Woods said about the dog at the library.

Athena was brought to the library by a volunteer with Companions, Inc. She is a German Shepherd that was adopted from a local German Shepherd rescue here in Fairbanks.

"Definitely helps relieves stress. Helps take my mind off stuff," Wood said.

He said that as soon as he sat down, all he thought about was Athena and not his finals that were less than an hour away.

A study from the Harvard Medical School backs up Wood, saying that having dogs at work can help relieve stress. The paper published to the Harvard Health Blog says, that since the 1980's, there have been studies supporting the idea that dogs and other pets help lower blood pressure, improve recovery from heart disease and improve people’s psychological well-being and self-esteem.

Jensen says the four year old program has been a success.

"Students love it. We get a lot of feedback both on Facebook and then in person, a lot of people just coming in and commenting on it. It is probably the most popular outreach thing we do, even though we are a library, but people are studying here so they will come down for a break," Jensen said.

These breaks will help students prepare for the final grind of the semester.

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