Man's best friend provides stress relief for students at UTPA
Contact: Javier Espinoza, Intern (956) 665-2741
Posted: 01/11/2012
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For some people, stress relief might come in the form of a nice vacation getaway or a day at a spa.

Raul Leal, a criminal justice major at UTPA (pictured left), and Beatriz Ramirez, a mass communication major, pet "Dawny," a therapy dog, to relax between exams at UT Pan American. Palm Valley Animal Center and Wonderful Animals Giving Support (WAGS) brought several dogs and cats to campus to help students de-stress during finals for the Fall 2011 semester. Students were able to pet and take dogs for a walk, as well as adopt. UTPA plans to have the organizations come to the University every semester during finals.

For students at The University of Texas-Pan American worried about taking finals before the Christmas break, stress relief came from four-legged friends with wagging tails.

On Dec.13, harried students interacted, walked and cuddled with a host of adoptable dogs and cats, brought in by the Palm Valley Animal Center and Wonderful Animals Giving Support (WAGS), a certified dog therapy organization that provides services to those in need.

"Research shows that petting and playing with dogs lowers blood pressure, triglyceride levels and reduces stress," said Lise Blankenship, director of counseling and advisement at UTPA."

Personal contact with man's best friend can also lift a person's mood as well as serve many other purposes that can be beneficial, she said. "They can help you get away from feelings of loneliness. They're a companion and can help you exercise too."

The event was sponsored by the Department of Counseling and Psychological Services as a way to help students destress during finals.

"Students, when stressed out, don't test well so we're hoping that with these animals here they can kind of pet them and distress a bit," said Blankenship. "We're hoping this helps students go into their finals with a little less stress so they can really focus on their exams."

Students took advantage of this great opportunity and dropped by to pet and hang out with the animals.

"Look at this face, this adorable face," said a student who attended. "How can you not be destressed by this?"

Palm Valley also brought dogs that were high on the list to be euthanized and the cost for them was reduced to encourage adoption.

The organization adopted out four of six dogs it had available.

Oso, an 8-month-old Terrier mix, was adopted by Michael Kent, computer information systems major at UTPA.

"I love dogs and when I saw this opportunity to adopt a dog, I decided to take it," said Kent. "Animals can provide a form of therapy because they create a soothing environment that allows us, as owners, to feel at ease and somehow release our troubles into the wind."

Aside from companionship and stress relief, Kent sees dog ownership as a chance to grow responsibly.

"More people should consider adopting animals because it is one way to increase the maturity level of a person," said Kent. "This is an opportunity that I see will benefit me in terms of responsibility and maturity. This will be no easy task, as I have to train him and get him used to the rules in my house. It will be a challenge."

Palm Valley and WAGS will bring its adoptable and therapy pets to visit UTPA again at the end of the spring semester.

"We plan to do this every semester during finals," said Blankenship. "I just want to make sure that all students are aware that we do provide therapy, individual and group therapy, through counseling and psychological services and part of what we're doing is we want to make sure students are aware that we are out here for them."

For more information, contact Blankenship at (956) 665-2574 or visit Palm Valley Animal Center at