Animal-Assisted Therapy Volunteers Visit HHPR Class

March 4, 2014
aAngel Paws Story
It’s the week before spring break — midterms loom; projects are due; stress is mounting. But students in the Stress Management class in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation (HHPR) had some relief when three therapy dogs and their handlers from the Angel Paws organization paid a visit.
The animal-assisted therapy group typically visits hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice patients. Volunteers also work with the local library’s Reading Buddies program and an anti-bullying campaign in schools. And, wherever they go, stress disappears.
“Most of what we do is reduce stress to help people heal,” volunteer Jean Ann Jones told the class. “It often gives people something to focus on other than their pain.”
Diana Engelhardt said, “Whenever we first walk into a hospital, everyone is drawn to the dogs and stops to pet them. So, in addition to the patients, it can be helpful to administrators, hospital staff, and people who are visiting someone in the hospital.”
Jimmye McAdams, who was a critical care nurse, said, “When a patient starts stroking the dog’s fur, they become instantly more relaxed.”
The Baylor HHPR class in the School of Education is an upper-level elective for students in many programs across the university, lecturer Margo Shanks said, and is an elective option for pre-med students.
Pre-med student Danielle Handman, who is majoring in Health Science Studies in HHPR, said she enjoyed the dogs’ visit and that “it really worked” for stress relief during test week.
Shanks said that the class curriculum covers all of the scientific theories behind stress and its affects on the body, but the students enjoy several other active learning sessions including yoga, music therapy, and art therapy.
This was the first visit for the therapy pets, but Shanks said she would like to see them again. And so would the students, who answered with smiles and nods when Jones asked them if they felt better after petting the dogs. —Meg Cullar
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