By Faith LeMelle
Pets can be a great way to help reduce anxiety, according to Medical Health Foundation. With all the weight of dealing with personal issues, pets can help students find a healthy way to cope with stress.
Xavier’s Mobilization At Xavier program’s Pet Awareness With Students or PAWS, partners with local pet shelters to allow students to volunteer with the shelter animals. Animal Rescue New Orleans hosts ten to twelve students with weekly trips to play with the shelter dogs and cats. The shelter is home to dogs of all sizes, along with cats. Students come and provide the animals quality time, while also releasing stress.
“It eases the anxiety I have about being away from my pets at home,” said Sydney Midgett, a sociology major student from Chicago, Ill. at Xavier. “It distracts me from the general stressors of being a college student,” Midgett added.
A study conducted in June 2022 by the American Heart Association shows that 70-percent of overwhelmed people would rather spend time with their pets than watch television to de-stress. The most popular way pets help people de-stress is through snuggling, making their owners laugh, and helping them feel less lonely.
“I have pets at home, so it helped with my homesickness,” said Hailee Booth, a computer science major from Atlanta, Ga. “I enjoy giving up some of my free time to give the dogs and kittens company and make them happy,” Booth added.
At the shelter, the students are put into two groups: dogs and cats. From there, the people who volunteer with the dogs will take them on walks and play with them. The other group will sit in the room and play with any cat that is willing. There are play pens where students can take the animals and play with them. Students can also take the dogs on walks around the neighborhood to get their daily exercise. In the play pens, some of the dogs are able to play with other dogs.
“My favorite thing about PAWS is that it allows me to be a friend to neglected and traumatized pets. It makes me happy to see them regain trust and a connection with humans and other animals,” said Reeci Floyd, a former site student leader for Xavier’s PAWS. “I love seeing them socializing and active. It makes me aware of their feelings to that I can sympathize with them and carry on to other sentimental beings. Pet therapy is a stress reliever for me. I can get away from school and other stressors by simply taking time out to understand and care for them.” Floyd also added.
Students have two hours to interact with the animals and receive two hours of community service hours. This partnership is beneficial for both organizations and the animals. The animals get the chance to play, while students get the opportunity to decompress.
“I became a member of PAWS because I wasn’t able to bring my dog from home while living on campus, and my dog was the most emotional support I had back then,” said Ayanna Griffin, a business sales and marketing major from Memphis, Tenn. “PAWS has impacted me in multiple ways. It has allowed me to explore building relationships with cats and not solely being a dog person. This program has also allowed me to form relationships with other animal lovers. It shows me how to best care for my current kitten now that I live off campus.” Griffin also added.