Puppy room so popular Dalhousie makes back-up plan
Roc the Saint Bernard will be one of several dogs in residence at Dalhousie University's 'Puppy Room' from Dec. 4-6, 2012. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)
Published Friday, November 30, 2012 11:00AM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 30, 2012 11:02AM EST
Dalhousie University’s student union has gained international attention and overwhelming student support for its plans to instate a “puppy room” for three days during its exam season – so much so that it’s had to develop a back-up plan in case of too much student interest.
The Halifax school’s so-called puppy room will feature two to four dogs above the ages of one year, from Tuesday through Thursday next week. They’re being provided through Therapeutic Paws Canada, which facilitates therapy animal visits for nursing homes, hospitals, schools and other settings, and will be accompanied by their owners.
The idea has been wildly popular online, with more than 1,250 people “liking” the Facebook announcement and more than 2,000 users sharing the post. Student union communications and policy manager Lindsay Dowling said Friday that the idea has gained so much attention -- including media coverage in the United States and the United Kingdom – they’re planning to add a shuttle service to a nearby animal shelter to handle potential overflow.
The dogs will be housed in the student union building, which is in a central location on the Dalhousie campus. During the hours the puppy room is open – the details of which are posted on the student union’s Facebook page -- students will also be able to hop on a shuttle bus to the Dartmouth SPCA.
Dowling insists the idea wasn’t a publicity stunt, noting it came from a suggestion submitted by environmental science student Michael Kean.
But, she adds, she couldn’t have come up with a better way to get attention if she tried.
“It’s good, because mental health is a serious issue for students at post-secondary,” she said. “Animals are known to decrease people’s blood pressure … Our (general manager) every so often will bring in his dog to the office and you can see that it’s really great for the staff.”
According to Therapeutic Paws, having a connection with animals is calming, stimulating and even helps people recover faster from surgery.
Kean, 21, says he put forward the idea as a small way of helping lower the palpable stress he feels on campus at this time of year.
“It’s a terrifying time of year for a lot of students,” he told CTVNews.ca on Friday. “Basically your life is on a chopping block and some people take it very hard.”
He got the idea from a friend who went to McGill University, which did the same thing last year. “I just can’t see a downside to having them on campus,” Kean said.
The university’s student union has been working this year to engage students by acting on as many of their suggestions as possible, so when they saw this one, they jumped on it, said Dowling.
“We’ve had a few concerns about allergies but … the room will be cleaned thoroughly after they leave,” she told CTVNews.ca.
She added that if next week’s trial goes well, the partnerships between the student union, Therapeutic Paws and the SPCA could become a regular thing.
“It’s one thing to get all the hype but to see how it plays out.”