Paws and effect

StMU Psychology students delve into benefit of pet assisted therapy

As the winter semester comes to a close and stress levels raise with exams and the holiday season right around the corner, the Pet Access League Society (PALS) couldn’t have picked a better time to stop by the St. Mary’s University Campus.

PALS, a non-profit organization located in Calgary, is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of individuals through pet therapy, and for the students at St. Mary’s, the furry friends are a welcome respite from a hectic schedule.

As part of their Psych. 400 capstone project, psychology students Erin Williams and Agniezszka Tarko-Biedacha were on hand to do research to see how interacting with PALS during a stressful time impacts student well-being.

“It was surprising how many people actually came out to visit with PALS today,” said Williams. “The students seem to really like the days and we’re hoping we get the results we are looking for.”

“We’re hoping that out of all the different interventions that you can use for student well-being that this will be extremely helpful and we can implement (PALS) as a more reoccurring thing if there are positive results.”

The benefits are immediate for psychology student Elizabeth Jahns who appreciates the research her classmates are doing on the topic of pet therapy.

“It’s a nice time to relax and shows that St. Mary’s actually cares about the students, and doing research on top of it is a two-for-one deal,” said Jahns. “I know for me personally that it does reduce stress so it’s nice to see the significance and facts about the pet therapy.”

Fiona Reid and her Flat Coat Retriever Bear have been visiting St. Mary’s for five years as part of the PALS program and Reid said that it is the joy that the students display that keeps her and Bear coming back.

“Seeing the joy that it brings to the students is highly rewarding,” said Reid. “Life is tough right now and I think it must be particularly tough for students, but if they come here and see Bear and walk out of here having a better day it’s worth everything to me.”