Research-wise there are many benefits to dog therapy, such as reduced blood pressure, improved cardiovascular health and endorphin – the hormone of happiness – release. But this is not an academic paper, so let me build this on-campus dog therapy experience through my business-management-with-marketing student lens.
Having thera‘paw’tic events like the Mayhew Home Dogs visit at Westminster Business School, gives the students’ minds a break, at least for a little while. With exams / final year assignments, it can be quite difficult to switch off – it is like you stay within your own bubble of research, reading and re-reading, often not sleeping enough, and overall forgetting about the outside world. Sometimes forgetting to give yourself a break. Again, there is numerous research showing how counter-productive that can be…
Yet, the moment I see any dog, they instantly become my furry friend, and I experience the clarity that comes naturally with gently brushing the animal’s soft fur, as well as seeing its tail happily wagging in approval, that bubble of isolation and pressure bursts. Before I know it, I am swimming in an ocean of this sort of careless, pressure-free happiness, where you just enjoy the moment without thinking too much. Then I look around and the same type of feelings seem to be reflecting on my peers’ faces – smiles, chuckles and puppy cuddles fill the space around me!
And so, Java and Noodle (the two dogs from the Mayhew Animal Home that visited us at Marylebone campus as part of an exam de-stress therapy session) brought in their stress-bubble-bursting magic and meeting them was relaxing and re-energising at the same time. Alongside giving the dogs as much affection as possible (in the form of belly rubs here and there and treats!) and receiving just as much love back (simply by seeing that ‘I am happy to have you here, human’ type of look dogs can give!), it was great fun to socialise with others (you would be amazed how easy it is to chat with other students when encouraged by our great love and passion for dogs).
I also found great inspiration in the stories of those dogs as shared by their owners – for example Java, this adorable and cuddly corgi (that has his own Instagram!) often visits elderly people, bringing a little bit of hope, sunshine and happiness in their lives, sometimes dark and stormy… In fact, the owner’s words stuck to my head: “Just for an hour or so [while cuddling Java], they [old people, who are approaching the end of their lives] forget about everything and you can really see them being happy.” Beautiful, isn’t it?
That’s just one of the many wonderful things the Mayhew Charity do. The animal home serves as an animal rescue centre, complemented by wonderful community work, creating a beautiful environment both for the animals and for the people that need that extra bit of love and warmth. Some initiatives include working with the elderly, with young people and the homeless.
So, yes, I am an absolute dog lover. Yes, I think dogs (not only!) can be like these little bundles of joy. And yes, to me one of the best way to treat (de-stress) yourself before exams/during exam revision is to be among dogs! My advice to any student (and staff member) reading this – When you find out there is a pet visit happening on campus, go there and enjoy yourself! And… let us not forget to always be kind to animals (and, of course, to other people and to ourselves).
Thank you to Anna Dolidze, a BA Business Management (Marketing) student at the Westminster Business School. Anna also works part-time at the Career Development Centre as an Administrator for the UWAS school scheme. And thank you to the Mayhew Animal House for hosting their therapy sessions with us and for taking these beautiful photos.