THRIVE Week kicks off with therapy dogs at EDC

By Becca Myskiw

Therapy dogs hit the halls in Red River College’s Exchange District Campus (EDC) to kick off THRIVE Week.

RRC student Sarah Jane Martin spent most of her time on Monday with Boomer the eight-year-old therapy dog./GABBY PICHE

THRIVE Week is dedicated to promoting mental health for students. November 4 to 9 has different activities each day at EDC and the Notre Dame Campus (NDC) that offer time for students to relax and take a break from school stress.

Kory is the owner of Bruce, a four-year-old rottweiler therapy dog. She said she didn’t realize how much stress students were under until she started bringing Bruce to post-secondary schools.

“You sit down with the students and you realize how stressful it is being a student,” she said.

Kory says she sees how happy it makes some students to sit down with a therapy dog and temporarily forget about classes and exams.

Bruce’s best trick — playing dead — was a big hit with students on Monday. His owner, Kory, said he learned it in less than a day./GABBY PICHE

A 2018 McGill University study surveyed 43,780 students from 41 post-secondary institutions across Canada. It found that 42 per cent of students said stress impacted their academic performance, 33 per cent said anxiety impacted academic performance and 21 per cent said depression impacted their academic performance.

The study also found that 65 per cent of students said they feel overwhelming anxiety and 30 per cent experience clinical depression.

The McGill University study also found people aged 18 to 25 are most likely to “engage in certain unhealthy behaviours” like substance abuse if depression, anxiety and stress go untreated.

A 2017 Modern Psychological Studies study said Animal-Assisted Therapy (therapy dogs) offers an effective option for students struggling with anxiety and stress. 

The study said interacting with the dogs decreases cortisol levels and lowers heart rates, ultimately reducing stress. 

The study said interacting with the therapy dogs also decreases anxiety and negative moods, leaving students feeling more positive after.

Faith Witt is a second-year Civil Engineering Technology student at RRC. She said having coping mechanisms is important when in college to prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed. Therapy dogs, she said, reduce stress for her.

“[The dogs] just being there to comfort you, even though they may not fix the stress, but it will reduce it as much as possible.”

Bruce’s owner, Kory, said he was the runt of his litter and although he’s a big boy, he’s small for his breed./GABBY PICHE

Bruce has been a therapy dog for over two years. Kory said he loves giving attention and is just as excited to get it back.

“He loves being loved,” she said.