The Best Therapist Has Four Legs and Fur



Olivia Sabalaskey

Pets, specifically dogs, have this indescribable power of instilling a sense of comfort in another simply by looking into their eyes. After a long, stressful, and exhausting day, nothing beats the moment the dog runs to greet a weary owner and showers her with kisses. All the cares of the day have simply vanished at the sight and greeting of a beloved, four-legged friend.

As college students, we are dedicated to our studies, determined to “become what we are not yet.” But, sometimes, we feel overwhelmed. Particularly during midterms and finals week, our workload and stress levels rise like a stack of papers on a desk and soon we feel as though we are buried beneath them. 

Luckily, the Office of Health Promotion on Villanova’s Campus wants to help relieve student’s stress and promote happiness. “Where is the Love? ‘Wednesdays with Pals for Life’” enables Villanova students to destress simply by being in the presence of a therapy dogs and a bunny. Pals for Life is an animal assisted therapy, non-profit organization whose mission is to “bring pets to those who need them” and with them, instill hope, happiness and unconditional love to all who encounter the animals. Pals for Life volunteers bring their certified therapy dogs to those who need them in places such as nursing homes, hospitals, mental health facilities and college campuses like Villanova to spread love and promote joy. 

Biochemically, petting a dog has been known to help lower blood pressure, ease depression and increase levels of oxytocin, a hormone that reduces blood pressure and anxiety. Not only does pet therapy help relieve college related stress, but it also helps familiarize students with Villanova’s Office of Health Promotion. “By hosting our program in a different space at the beginning of the month,” Kristy McCarthy, Assistant Director of Health Promotion, remarks, “students can learn about other offices and the helpful resources here on campus.” 

Pet therapy is a great way to meet wonderful, comforting animals who give nothing but unconditional love and support. It’s also a great way to meet other students who share a love for them. 

“I love coming to pet therapy because I’ve met so many fellow dog lovers here. I’ve come every week, and I plan on coming frequently during my next four years here,” a Villanova student explained. 

One of the Pals for Life volunteers, owner of the beloved therapy dog Gigi, enjoys “seeing the kids come together and bonding over these beautiful creatures that teach us so much. Instead of focusing on what may happen, dogs teach us to just live in the moment, focusing on the present. I feel like we need to do that more often.”

Asked if there is anything she would like to tell Villanova students, McCarthy said she wants Villanova students to “stay tuned! This program is something that students seem to be enjoying and we look forward to making it even bigger and better! We are thinking of changing the time of the program so more students can attend, and we will be partnering with more campus partners once a month to reach different groups of students.” 

“Where is the Love? ‘Wednesdays with Pals for Life’” will return to campus in early November and right before finals in December. Details are available on the Villanova website under “Health Promotion,” Pals for Life’s website, and on instagram where you can follow Villanova Health Promotion @villanovahealth and support Pals for Life