Stress-buster Zara a huge hit!

Posted on Monday 11th January 2016

Students have given the University of Bolton Pets As Therapy dog, Zara, a huge thumbs up in their feedback.

Zara, the curly coated retriever, was in last week for the first time, aiming to help students who were anxious about their pending exams. Every student who provided feedback said they would definitely use the service again and 80 per cent of them said spending some time with Zara had definitely improved their anxiety levels.

Now Zara will be back in on Tuesday 12 January 2016 to help anyone else feeling they need to relax with a little canine TLC before their January assessments. Students just need to call in at the Student Centre, Chancellor’s Mall; no need to book.

Pet stress-busters for students are used by several American universities, including Harvard. Research shows that interaction with pets decreases the level of cortisol – or stress hormone – and increases endorphins, known as the happiness hormone. Cambridge University is also running a Pets as Therapy (PAT) dog trial at the moment.

Zara loves meeting new people and has special training to be a PAT dog. Her owner, Fiona Valentine, is Disability Services Manager in the University Students Centre. ‘There was a great buzz around the day from the students and staff alike treated her like a celebrity every time we left the office.  The publicity either from social media, the screens or word of mouth seemed to gain real traction with the students, with many students asking to see her by name.

‘What I hadn’t appreciated is how many students really miss their dog from home and so for them she is a real comfort. I had a couple of conversations with students who were able to talk to us about issues that they may not have come to us to discuss without her being there. The Student Centre is all about being there for the students so we were thrilled with that aspect as well.’

PAT is a national charity founded in 1983, providing therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and a variety of other establishments. Since its beginning over 28,000 dogs have become registered PAT dogs.