Bringing Puppies to Latin

John Gross Co Editor in Chief Last weekend I went on my first college tour on the east coast. It is odd to think that soon I will be applying to schools, writing college essays, going to interviews, and, finally, will be a college student myself, perhaps passing a tour, similar to the one I was on, on my way to class.   We had walked by the main building on campus and some dormitories when the girl behind me asked a question: “what is the best part about college?”   “The puppies.” I was confused. “The college brings in puppies that students can visit and pet in order to destress.” The guide added, “oh, and sometimes they bring in masseuses, too.”   I was surprised at first, but then remembered my brother and sister, a college freshman and sophomore respectively, telling me that they too had puppies and masseuses at Penn and Wash U. Petting puppies or getting a massage, they said, puts school into perspective to college students, reminds them that there are cuter, more important things than GPA. While stress and competition are natural, especially in college, it helps to bring in the puppies when it gets out of hand.   After the tour, I did some research and found countless other schools that took the same initiative to reduce stress, particularly during finals week. Schools such as Emory University, Penn State University, Tufts University, Kent State University, and hundreds of others bring puppies on to campus during finals, coordinating “puppy rooms” for students to frequent during study breaks.   Scientifically, petting puppies causes actual chemical changes in the brain. Studies have shown that it can increase production of oxytocin, a hormone that helps lower blood pressure and alleviate anxiety. Also, just by simply petting a dog, the amount of cortisol—a stress-inducing hormone—decreases and endorphin levels in the brain shoot up. Consequently, college students are much happier during finals week than they have been in the past.   Now in the throws of the notoriously difficult third quarter, it is a good time for Latin to reflect once again on how to manage stress among the student body. I myself have three tests and two essays in the next few weeks.   Is the answer to bring puppies to Latin? There’s a conference room in the back of the library that is always open. That could be a great place to house some golden retriever puppies. We could take the table out and put in some doggy beds and a box of treats for visitors to feed the dogs with. What time would be best? The dogs can be there during both lunch blocks, that way students can grab something to eat and then pet the puppies on their way to class.   With stressful weeks quickly approaching, this might be exactly what we all need. But, sadly, this can’t happen. Imagine how much the golden puppies would shed in that room. And what if students are allergic to dogs? Also, where would they go to the bathroom?   Unfortunately we can’t bring in masseuses either.   But there are other ways to keep ourselves sane in the weeks to come. First, if you have a pet at home, even if we can’t have them at school, spending time with it makes school work, college, GPA, etc. seem manageable. I myself have a golden retriever, and find that taking a twenty-minute break during a long night of homework to pet her allows me to forget about any tests or essays I might have. Dogs act as a blank slate of sorts. They don’t understand what is happening during incredibly sad or stressful times, acting calmly as if nothing bad is happening. Spending time with dogs enables us to forget about all of things that are causing us distress.   Aside from petting animals, however, colleges have other de-stressing mechanisms that we ought to consider using. Students at New York University, for example, receive goodie bags with candy and stress balls during finals week. I am sure student government can arrange something similar. At Brown, student volunteers pass out doughnuts and at Princeton there are freshly baked cookies available for free every night.   Perhaps most reasonable to implement at Latin, though, is University of Georgia’s de-stressing tactic. Instead of making changes specifically for Finals Week, they have “de-stress tables” in their libraries year-round. These tables include simple activities such as puzzles and coloring books and sometimes have free coffee.   Before third quarter gets out of hand too quickly, Latin should realize some of these techniques. And at the very least, if third quarter isn’t stressful enough to call for any changes, we should designate a table or two in the library during finals weeks for games, drawing, and forgetting about exams. Any other de-stressing techniques? Comment below!]]>