Students Facing Exams ‘Paws for Stress’

Share this story

An estimated 1,000 students turned out for Monday’s “Paws for Stress” therapy event hosted by University Counseling Services (UCS) in partnership with The Center for Human-Animal Interaction (CHAI).

Eight therapy dogs from CHAI’s Dogs on Call program visited the second floor of the University Student Commons to do what they do best: be a dog.

Eager students waited in long lines for their chance to pet and receive kisses from friendly canines happy to help the audience relax before final exams.

“We were feeling the stress, so we needed some time to relieve it,” said Corinne White, a junior, who was in line with Josh Monday, a senior, for a visit with the dogs.

Stewie, a 5-year-old Maltese and veteran of the Dogs on Call program, has donated more than 100 hours of licks, tricks and nuzzles to patients of all ages. On Monday, Stewie discovered that dancing and playing a tune on a toy piano is just as popular with stressed-out college students as it is for children battling illnesses.

While it’s not necessary for therapy dogs to know tricks, Stewie’s owner, Joan Nuttle, discovered – after repeated requests – that it doesn’t hurt.

Victoria Keel, case manager with UCS, thought the Dogs on Call program was the perfect solution to help students cope with the end-of-the-semester strain and to provide them with a comforting reminder of home.

“A lot of students here live on campus and can’t have pets, but have pets at home they probably miss,” said Keel. “So we thought this would be a neat way for them to have that opportunity too.”


Subscribe for free to the weekly VCU News email newsletter at and receive a selection of stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings in your inbox every Thursday.