Kutztown University students took a break from studying for finals on Tuesday, May 14, and congregated on the McFarland Student Union lawn, where they pet therapy dogs, cuddled farm animals and fed exotic creatures.
A crowd of students witnessed Percy, a 9-month-old camel, guzzling down a bottle of milk. One adventurous student allowed a white rat to run up and down her torso. Another student squealed in delight as a Babydoll Southdown lamb nuzzled into her arms. One thing was certain – the stress of final exams was the last thing on these students’ minds.
“I got to hold a baby sheep!” exclaimed Rami Steinruck, a graduate student in the student affairs in higher administration program. “I immediately felt my stress levels drop. I think animals bring great energy to the campus.”
Lehigh Valley Therapy Dogs, a volunteer group that brings specially trained dogs to schools, hospitals and nursing homes, deliver joy to places that need it the most. The therapy dogs must pass a series of tests and are evaluated for obedience, friendliness and manners. With soft fur, big smiles and wagging tails, the dogs were a huge hit with KU students.
“There’s such a mixture of people who want the dogs to visit them,” said Richard Brownell, a volunteer with Lehigh Valley Therapy Dogs. “We visit a lot of colleges. Many students have dogs at home and miss them while they’re in school. These dogs relieve a lot of stress – people pet and interact with them and you can see them loosen up. Every person has personally thanked us for coming. When they leave, they’re ready to take their finals.”
The farm and exotic animals at the event were provided by the Peaceable Kingdom Petting Zoo, located in Perkasie, Pa. Among their most exotic animals, the zoo boasts a Snow Macaque monkey. marmoset and a Palawan binturong, commonly known as a ‘bearcat.’
“The animals do this every weekend,” explained Charis Matey, animal lover and founder of the Peacable Kingdom. “People love them – petting the animals relaxes them and helps them get over their fears and anxieties. We just visited a nursing home and we work with a lot of disabled children and adults. The white deer, Taffy, is one of my favorite animals. She’s just wonderful, so tame and sweet.”
At KU, Pet Therapy Day, a bi-annual event that occurs during finals week in the fall and spring semesters, is long awaited and much appreciated.
“I think it’s a great way to get students outside and help them relax during finals,” said Jessica Janze, a graduate student in the couples, marital and family therapy program. “I love the camel.”