Therapy dogs help students hit ‘human reset’ button
The symbiotic nature of the relationship between humans and dogs was on full display during wellness week as students experienced “Love on a Leash” from the gardens of the Oasis Wellness Center between classes.
Animal-assisted therapy connects people with pets and its many health benefits are being increasingly recognized. Although it is a growing field, there is no shortage of data to suggest that the healing power of dogs for those suffering from mental and physical illnesses is significant. This includes high-stress situations of any kind, such as midterms or finals week for college students.
“Every time you interact with a dog, I call it the human reset button. It absolutely is,” said Joyce Greenberg, a handler at the event. “No matter how stressed you are, no matter what’s going on in your life. It’s a total stress buster. Every student that walks in here and interacts with our dogs, I guarantee you that their blood pressure goes down.”
Music therapy major Elizabeth Fulton said that she and a group of friends ran from the music building to the Oasis as soon as they heard about the puppy and student meet and greet.
“I live on campus, so I don’t have an animal, and there’s a certain innocence that animals have that’s healing to me,” Fulton said. “I almost feel like they can read us as people, so they can tell that we’re stressed, and they just want to love on us.”
Greenberg’s dog Teton, a 6-year-old flat-coated retriever, is a frequent visitor at CSUN but is no stranger to more intense settings. She has stood alongside first responders at the scenes of both natural disasters and national tragedies, comforting survivors as they coped with trauma and loss.
“We were at Malibu High when all of the kids came back for the first time after the fires, and having the dogs on campus … everybody was breathing differently,” Greenberg said. “When we were at Borderline, when we were in Vegas, her whole body language … she took on so much negative energy that she basically collapsed after every visit.”
Teton has also visited with staff from different newsrooms. Greenberg talked about how refreshing it is to witness those in high-stress work environments let their guards down to interact with a dog, even if it’s only for a second.
The Malibu Canyon resident, who works full-time in the travel industry, explained how she has found a deeper purpose in life through animal therapy. She is always looking for ways to give back to communities in need of healing.
“Every one of us can tell you that we get more than we give, without a doubt. We all have stories of changing people’s lives,” Greenberg said. “There’s not much you can do in your life that can have as much as an impact that the dogs do.”