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Dogs help GSU students through 'ruff' week
Therapy dogs calm finals week nerves
050713 THERAPY DOGS
Georgia Southern University freshmen Mallory Rogers of Stone Mountain, far right, and Andrianna Odell of St. Marys, both 18, take a break from final exams with therapy dog Garner and owner Lynda Webb Tuesday at the Henderson Library on campus. The dogs will return to the library from 5-6 p.m. today. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Man’s best friend is earning the title this week on the campus of Georgia Southern University.
All week, students weary from finals and end-of-semester projects are being provided mental relief courtesy of canine companions.
Through a partnership with the local chapter of Circle K International, a student-led community-service organization, the Zach S. Henderson Library is hosting a Therapy Dogs International program that allows students to take a break from studying for playtime with pups.
Monday through today, local volunteers are spending one hour at the library with their certified and insured therapy dogs, which are a welcome site for passing students.
“The point of having these dogs come in during finals week is to help students relieve stress before and during finals. It just makes the students’ days,” said Ann Hamilton, associate dean of the Henderson Library. “Students seem to enjoy it. They like to come and have pictures taken and show pictures of their own dogs. This really helps them.”
Wednesday evening, the happy faces of Garner (a female Australian shepherd), Sunny (a female chocolate lab) and Wrigley (a male German shepherd), greeted students in the library lobby.
A steady flow of students doted on the furry friends, taking pictures, speaking with owners, and, of course, scratching heads and stomachs.
By Wednesday afternoon, most students had completed their last final of the semester, but still took advantage of an opportunity to visit with the dogs.
“I have never had a dog, but love them. It is cool to just hang out here with the dogs,” said Nancy Franklin, a senior (graduating Saturday) who had recently finished her final test. “It is a great distraction. It is great to hang out with something fluffy, rather than books and computers.”
Both Franklin and sophomore Kenya Campbell were seeing the dogs for a second time — they visited when Therapy Dogs International volunteers were on campus during the fall semester.
“I am an animal person. I really love dogs,” Campbell said. “I guess it does relieve stress. It just feels good.”
This week marks the third time therapy dogs have been invited to campus for stress relief during finals week.
About eight dogs, and their owners, participated throughout the week.
“It has been really rewarding,” said Lynda Webb, a Therapy Dogs International volunteer and member of the organization’s local chapter. “I think the students have really enjoyed it. I think, for all of us, that this program relieves stress.”
“Just to have a diversion from class and to be able to come here for a break is a great benefit,” said Jerri Kropp, a group volunteer, who also teaches an animal therapy class at Georgia Southern. “I love to do it. It is a win-win situation.”
In addition to the program at Georgia Southern, Therapy Dogs International volunteers visit nursing homes, hospitals, hospice care centers, disaster relief sites and other facilities to offer stress relief and comfort to people.

Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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