Students and dog lovers gathered in “awe” last Thursday, Sept. 19, as the Darwin Quad saw a swarm of friendly dogs ready for playful interaction, cuddles, and the joyful faces of Sonoma State students alike. With combined efforts from the Student Health Advisory Committee and the 4 Paws Learning and Wellness Center, 15 dogs were brought to campus for students to pet and enjoy in a relaxing environment.
Hosted three times a semester, “SHAC Doggy Play Day” provides students with a chance to come and play with dogs as means for relaxation and “de-stressing.” All dogs, brought by the 4 Paws organization, are certified therapy dogs that are trained to work with people.
Held once a month, the event runs one and a half hours, except before finals--when it is fittingly three hours long. Starting at 11:30 a.m., the event showcases students quickly lining up as the dogs are in clear view--nothing besides a student signature of two security forms is required before students can see the puppies.
“SCHAC Doggy Play Day” had one of its largest turnouts in a while. Usually showcasing between 150 to 300 students per event, the event and its staff went through 200 sets of forms within just the first 30 minutes of opening.
With the turnout as big as it was this time around, the line quickly generated even more students, as the organizers wanted to limit interaction to three to four people per dog. SHAC member, Noelia Brambila-Perez, assisted at the event as she helped organize the line and let students in upon signature.
Kindly stepping aside, Noelia says, “we had so many people, it was amazing to see. Although there is a line, people are still just waiting and waiting to get to the puppies despite the line.”
Among the adorable puppies at the event is Christopher, a nine-year-old Golden retriever. Christopher’s sponsor and member of the 4 Paws organization, Lisa, described how Christoper was not only the runt of his litter, but actually had to be resuscitated at birth. Although he was officially trained at the Berlin University program for service for two years, he was released due to medical issues. He has since then been reassigned as a service dog and frequently visits inmates and staff of the Sonoma County Detention Center as well as an ANOVA school for autistic children--and more.
When asked about the impact she has seen from students at Sonoma State, Lisa says, “I think for freshman, it’s like the first time seeing a dog since leaving home. So those are always special moments. We hear a lot of stories about their dogs at home.”
With wagging tails and raised bellies, the dogs really do help students to relax, especially for those experiencing their first year on campus.
Vice President of SHACK, Cameron Kaiser, was also seen at the event and discusses its importance through his lens. “The Purpose is to really help students distress. They’re all therapy dogs, so they really know how to connect with humans and you can really tell that people love it,” says Kaiser.
In further discussion on excited students entering and exiting the dog area, assistant Noelia Brambila also says, “I think that it’s like a perfect way to build community. All of these students are having such fun. Some of them are still just hanging out and talking. Some are leaving all happy and goofy, it's a good positive thing out of this.”
Leaving from the event, SSU students Marrissa and Sidney quickly give their thoughts about the event overall. “oh my god, I’m so happy. I don’t know how you can’t be happy after playing with a bunch of puppies, but it definitely makes your day” says Marrissa. Regarding the length of time that the two students had to wait in line, versus how long they played with the dogs, they said, “we didn’t want to take up too much time for everyone else because I could stay there all day, trust me,” admitting that they only stayed for five to ten minutes for each.
All dog lovers will agree that playing with dogs really is effective in working towards a de-stressed state of mind. Although the dogs themselves are enjoying the ear and belly scratches, students also enjoy the chance to wind down and let your worries run free--even if for a little amount of time. Whether useful for combating the mental demands of midterms and finals--or the longing for one’s own puppy--or simply for the enjoyment that the personal interaction brings, the next “SHAC Doggy Play Day” at Sonoma State is certainly worth the visit.