By Kari Plog The News Tribune
TACOMA — The number of smiling students on the Pacific Lutheran University campus Tuesday may have tricked visitors into thinking finals were over.
But the tests are in full swing, and the smiles of overwhelmed college students aren’t because of typical finals-week coffee binges or power naps.
Rather, they’re the work of furry friends trained to relieve stress.
With the help of a national volunteer organization, Therapy Dogs International, several owners are bringing their certified therapy animals — mostly dogs — to PLU’s Red Square this week to spread cheer to students between tests and study sessions.
“I’m so stressed out right now,” said 21-year-old senior Marta Neumann. “This was such a happy thing to come upon.”
Ashley Connors and Emma Southard, both 18-year-old freshmen from Steilacoom, got the idea after residents of one dormitory organized a similar event during finals last semester.
The Associated Students of PLU senators started planning the animal visits in early fall.
The event has been a hit. On Monday alone, more than 100 students spent time with the dogs; some stuck around for 20 to 40 minutes.
Connors said even if people don’t have much time to hold or pet the animals, just walking by offers a distraction from studies.
“They just like seeing the dogs,” she said.
On Tuesday, several dogs and one cat offered affection.
Tucker, a four-year-old Shih Tzu-Maltese mix, waddled around flaunting his shaggy hair and performing tricks in exchange for treats from owner Jan West.
West said Tucker usually comforts hospice patients, so spending time with energetic college students was an exciting change of pace.
Teddy, a year-old ragdoll therapy cat, was in good company.
“He thinks he’s a dog,” said owner Denise Paquette.
Sophomore Katie Williams, who had one more final to take before heading home to her own dog in Olympia, was in Red Square on Tuesday for her second pet visit of the week.
“I got up early to come,” she said.
Southard said the hope is to bring the animals back to the Parkland campus.
“We are definitely going to continue next year,” she said.
Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com