With exam week and the end of semester responsibilities looming over the Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) community, stress levels of students and faculty are at an all-time high. In an effort to serve these needs, RVCC's Sculpture Garden became the home for man’s best friend. On May 5, 2016 the campus was visited by Creature Comfort Pet Therapy (http://www.ccpettherapy.org), a non-profit organization that not only runs therapy sessions but
trains and certifies the dogs and other animals.
The event “Furry Friends For Finals” sponsored by the Science and Engineering Department and a generous grant from the RVCC Foundation/College Community Fund was the brain child of Department Assistant Diana Trybulski. “I applied for a grant in October 2015 to bring the program here to RVCC for the entire community to benefit from,” Trybulski said. Each semester, the RVCC Foundation invites proposals for College Community Fund Grants and awards funds to support initiatives that benefit the college. “I feel strongly about the benefits of the pet therapy and wanted to do something to help the RVCC Community de-stress during final exams.”
The organization brought in five AKC certified pet therapy dogs to help de-stress the campus community. Research has shown that animal interaction lowers blood pressure, decreases depression and anxiety, stirs fond memories, speeds healing, decreases isolation, encourages communication, provides comfort, assists kids with learning skills and well just brightens someone’s day. “Dogs are galvanizing. People like dogs. I did get some feedback suggesting, can we have cats next time, can we have rabbits. They do have pet therapy Rabbits, dogs and cats. The ones who they have are specially vetted and screened,” said Trybulski. The dogs are trained and fully acclimated to being in large groups, near medical equipment and lots of noise.
A group of at least 100 students greeted the dogs and their handlers when they arrived at 11:00. The reaction to this event was indeed positive. One student who was very upset and stressed about a grade she was just given remarked, after having visited with some of the dogs “I am much more relaxed. I actually cried from happiness.” Another student said "I came on campus today specifically because I knew the dogs were going to be here. I knew it was going to be a wonderful event to help me de-stress." Trybulski was still on a high after such a successful event “I was very fortunate to have this event. This was
very gratifying. The dogs, you had to see them to believe them. I mean, we are talking big crowd and they were calm, relaxed enjoying it. The Greater Swiss Mountain dog at one point he was just lying down on the floor. He had ten students, literally there must have been ten students, circled around him petting him, all in there, and you know giving him love. The dog was in heaven. I am just super excited about the whole thing. It was just so positive.”
“Google is my friend,” exclaimed Trybulski about how she came to find Creature Comfort. “Basically I was trying to think of a
program that I could have here on campus. What could I do to help make Raritan a better place? I have friends that work with rescue groups and somebody had mentioned something about their dog getting certified to be a pet therapy dog and I remembered years ago that I had been at a hospital and I had encountered a pet therapy dog. It was a beautiful golden retriever and what a positive experience it was to see the dog at the hospital because hospitals are not the happiest places. I thought, 'Oh pet therapy. I wonder if we could do that at Raritan'.” Trybulski then did a Google search for pet therapy programs and NJ colleges. “I saw right away Montclair does a program on a regular basis and so does Fairleigh Dickinson. I reached out to both those institutions to get more information and both were very encouraging particularly the women at Fairleigh Dickinson,” explains Trybulski” This lead her to Creature Comfort who worked with both of the schools.
Among the students and faculty that showed up was John Trojan, Vice President for Finance and Facilities at RVCC. “I thought it was a wonderful idea. It was obvious that the students and staff members enjoyed the calming influence of these well behaved dogs. I think that it probably had a positive effect on their attitude for a very tense exam week.” It is something that Trojan feels should be continued in the future at least once per term.
If you would like to volunteer, have a pet trained or set up a visit by Creature Comforts Pet Therapy contact them on the web at http://www.ccpettherapy.org or call 973.285.9083.
Check out the Furry Friend For Finals Photo Gallery: Click Here
Featured Image: A group of at least 100 students greeted the dogs and their handlers when they arrived at 11:00 am. Photo by Diana Trybulski