BEMIDJI -- Isabelle Boehme probably had to wash her glasses Tuesday after a two-year-old mixed-breed dog named Balzac slobbered her with kisses in BSU’s Crying Wolf Room. All things considered, though, she really didn’t seem to mind.
Boehme was one of a handful of students who made their way to the student union for the event “Destress with Pets.” The university holds the event twice a year to help students relax amid the hectic finals season.
Freshman Ava Spooner was another student who made her way through the aisle of four-legged therapists who were anxious to meet everyone coming through the door. Within just a couple moments, Spooner was covered in dog hair.
She's confident in a pet's ability to help reduce stress. In addition to "Destress With Pets," Spooner said there was another recent time when a friend handed her a kitten to hold.
“I didn’t know how much I needed to hold this small, fuzzy thing until you handed it to me,” Spooner remembers thinking at the time.
Aside from the mixed-breed that decided to show Boehme some love, there were a couple larger dogs, a cat or two, as well as a chihuahua in a sweater.
Anywhere from 200 to 300 students were expected to pass through the room to visit the animals. The animal shelter Great River Rescue brought some of their animals over to take part in the event. There were also a couple privately owned animals people brought in.
The university asks students fill out a questionnaire as part of the event, ranking how stressed they felt going into the room and how stressed they felt leaving. On the far side of the room, a poster board explained that, on average, those who spent time with pets showed a three-point decrease in stress.
Jay Passa, health education coordinator for Bemidji State, said based on the survey results they have seen from the students, that stress reduction doesn’t depend on the time the students spend with the pets. That means students benefit from spending even just a short amount of time getting their faces licked, such as in the case of Boehme.
“It’s one of our most popular events,” Passa said.