Any pet owner can relate to the following scene: You’ve had a stressful day. Everything seems to be going wrong. You’re moody and tense and you just want to be left alone. You come home and open the front door and despite all the stress and frustrations of the day, your mood immediately brightens upon seeing your dog. He runs up to you, wagging his tail, panting with a happy grin. He does not care that you missed your deadline at work, or that you got into an argument with your best friend, or that you blew your tire on the way home. He’s just happy to see you, and his unconditional love melts away the stress of the day as you rub his favorite spot behind his ears and watch him cuddle up to you gratefully in response.
Pets have an amazing way of relieving stress and tension, a fact that has been studied and verified by scientists. One of the primary goals of Sunshine Friends, Inc. Therapy Pet Program is to bring joy and happiness to people in the Central New York Community through interaction with gentle, caring animals. When Syracuse University recently held their annual De-Stress Event on campus for students entering exam week, they asked Sunshine Friends to be part of the event.
The event looks to provide students with a few hours of relaxing activities during the heart of exam-week. Accommodating the late-night lifestyle of students, the event is held at night, from ten o’clock to midnight and offers free massages, healthy foods and snacks and among other relaxation services, an opportunity to enjoy the company of one of Sunshine Friends Certified Therapy Dogs. According to Sunshine Friends’ volunteer Melanie Hoover, both the students and her dog Boscoe (a Siberian Huskey/German Shepard/Tibetan Mastiff mix) mutually benefited from the quality time spent at the event.
“As soon as the groups of kids arrived, they immediately sat on the floor in a group or circle and Boscoe went up to each and every one to say hello and get his ‘lovin’s’ from them. By about eleven pm I could tell that Boscoe was getting tired… he was still happy to see each group and still greeted each student, but then he would choose one student and put his head on their lap for the remainder of the visit. Of course everyone wanted their lap to be Boscoe’s ‘pillow.’ Oh, he LOVED that! So as tired as he was at midnight, he seemed to enjoy every moment.”
The reaction of the students at the event mirrored the reaction that Sunshine Friends’ volunteers see every time they visit a hospital, nursing home or school with their pets, a smile breaking out on a shy face, a tense demeanor turn to joy, or stress evaporate into thin air, even if only for a little while.
“Just being able to run your fingers through a dog’s fur is relaxing and seeing the dog enjoy your attention as much as you enjoying petting the dog is a great ‘stress buster'” says Melanie. Like most therapy dogs, Boscoe has an innate ability to provide just the right type of therapy needed for an individual or a setting. According to Melanie, ”If someone is quiet, he will quietly sit with them for a moment, like at a nursing home. When he is around younger energetic people, he will ‘sing’ or ‘talk’ to them and do what I call his ‘happy dance’ to get their attention. I am always amazed at how my dog interacts with people – he ‘knows’ what type of interaction is appropriate for the moment, and at almost every visit I take him on I leave the location stunned, amazed, and at awe at my dog’s abilities to do his job as a therapy dog.”
Certainly Boscoe’s skills were well-received by the students at Syracuse University who left smiling and de-stressed and sharing photos of their time spent with Boscoe on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. Boscoe seemed to be a little social media celebrity that day! says Melanie. For Boscoe and all the other pet volunteers with Sunshine Friends, there is no such thing as another day of work. Whether they are interacting with students, or children, or seniors, bringing happiness to the lives of the people they meet is never work. It’s the beginning of a new friendship. Something that would make anyone smile.