Dogs De-Stress Dental Students

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Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.

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Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.

Spring is a stressful time of year for dental students as final exams and decisions about what comes after graduation all hang overhead. The University of Michigan School of Dentistry, though, has found a way for its future dentists to unwind with a little help from some furry friends.

Last month, Therapaws of Michigan brought some of its therapy dogs to the university for some school-sanctioned cuddling. Students, faculty, and staff alike all got to play with and pet and do more with the canines, which ranged from tiny lapdogs to burly Labradors.

“The biggest thing is that a lot of them say, ‘This makes me miss my dog at home,’” said Charlene Erickson, student administrative assistant in the Academic Affairs-Pathways Administration. “Or, they say that it is just a nice little break from the pressure of exams.”

Erickson also is part of the Academic Affairs Community Engagement Committee, which initiates goodwill and public service events through the school year. This is the school’s second de-stressing event with dogs, and the 2-hour session drew more than 100 participants. A third is planned for the end of the year.

Milad Karim, a first-year dental student (D1), put the session on his calendar to provide a break in his studies since he goes weeks or a month between visits home to see his Shetland sheepdog.

“It was really perfect timing for the D1’s because the event was just before a big practical that had everyone worried and stressed,” Karim said. “It was great to spend a little time with the sweet dogs who were equally excited to see all of the students as it was for the students to see them.”

“It was the perfect way to ease the stress before the last practical of our first year,” said Ryan Keener. “I’m thankful our school provides us fun things like this to ease the stress, although I do wish [the dogs] could always be there!”

Therapaws of Michigan is a nonprofit based in Ann Arbor that uses canine-assisted therapy to promote and foster the human-animal bond in therapeutic and educational settings. Its approximately 100 volunteers take the dogs to schools, libraries, extended care facilities, rehabilitation centers, and hospices, among other locations.

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