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The sweet, furry approach some colleges are taking to ease students' stress is brilliant.

Spend some time with a pooch before a big final? Yes, please!

The sweet, furry approach some colleges are taking to ease students' stress is brilliant.
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Petfinder

Being a college student comes with a lot of stress.

It involves the rigors of adulting practically on your own combined with a heavy workload, cramming your brain full of facts, trying to have a social life, and managing parents' expectations, all often topped off with worry about how you're going to pay off this expensive education.

It's a lot.


GIF from "Legally Blonde."

The hardest part for some students? They don't have a dog or cat to cuddle with like they might have had at home — and if you're a pet parent, you know just how good a de-stresser that is.

Enter adopted pets. Like Dakota.

Good dog. GIF via WTNH/YouTube.

Dakota's outlook wasn't great, reports WTNH. When she was found, Dakota was chained to a pole, awaiting euthanization.

But a local organization called TLC Sweet Souls scooped her up, trained her to become an emotional support dog, and placed her with Fairfield University in Connecticut.

Now, just as she was rescued, she gets to rescue others.

“Just seeing the dog while I am going to class or coming home from work — it is a piece of home and comfort I get to see everyday,” says sophomore student Olivia Stuart.

Who is saving whom?! GIF via WTNH/YouTube.

Look at how much joy and love she gives to the students, me, the staff, and everyone. It is perfect. It is beautiful,” said nursing professor Carole Pomarico.

Multiple colleges across the countries are doing things just like this.

And with depression and anxiety plaguing college students in a pretty fierce way, this is an idea whose time has come.

A program at University of Minnesota, Pet Away Worry and Stress (PAWS), welcomes students every Wednesday afternoon to spend some quality time with a variety of therapy animals — dogs, bunnies, chickens, and more.

GIF via USA Today.

And that's not the only program out there. Sacramento State students started a club called Pets for Stress, which also "borrows" therapy animals for special visits throughout the year.

GIF via Chou Chou Briard.

The benefits from these programs are both instantaneous and potentially lasting.

First, the opportunity to be a therapy dog can sometimes change the life of adoptable pets in shelters.

And the benefit to students is worthwhile. From The State Hornet:

“It's just amazing how connected a human and an animal can be. I can spend hours with them having a blast and feel less anxious or stressed." — Sacramento State student Jessica Decoque

And Rebecca Johnson, who oversees the Research Center for Human/Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, says that studies are beginning to focus on how engaging with pets can increase a person's level of oxytocin. As she told NPR:

"That is very beneficial for us. Oxytocin helps us feel happy and trusting."

That's why puppies can reach almost anybody!

GIF from "Parks and Recreation."

Pets with all kinds of secret skills are just waiting to be found and give their love and support.

If your school doesn’t have a Pet for Stress program yet, ask a local shelter if you can visit and spend time with some animals. You’ll de-stress both you and the pets.

Could the source of your emotional support be just a click away? You can use Petfinder to find a shelter close to you!

We can only hope this idea gets shared far and wide and becomes a trend on college campuses across America. Students deserve to relax and connect, and therapy animals thrive on getting to do their jobs!

Warning: If you watch this short clip, you may be inspired to start a group like this at your own local college!


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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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Another week of 2021 in the books...and now we're fully into September. Holy moly, how did that happen? Pandemic time is so wild.

Another week means another chance for us to counter the doom-and-gloom headlines with some simple rays of sunshine. Need a reason to smile? Here are 10 of them.

Enjoy.

1. This story of quick-thinking generosity on 9/11 is a reminder of the goodness of ordinary people.

Mercedes Martinez shared a story on Twitter about how her dad rented the biggest van he could find just before his flight was grounded on 9/11 because he knew people were going to be stranded. He ended up driving seven scared strangers from Omaha to Denver, took them straight to their front doors, and refused to accept any payment. She wants to find the people he helped. Read the full story here and follow her thread here for updates.


2. A WWII veteran got to meet the girl who wrote him a letter in the third grade, which he's kept with him for 12 years.

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