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Sept. 24, 2014

Doggone stress relief

Sept. 24, 2014

Thanks to Dr. Watson, College of Human Medicine students were offered a break from the stress and anxiety associated with final exams last year.

The doctor’s qualifications didn’t include a medical degree, but, rather, a pedigree.
Dr. Watson is an Airedale, and he offered the medical students something needed during exam week: unconditional love and the calm assurance that all is well.

“Just when I started to get worked up on an exam, I thought back to Dr. Watson,” second-year student Cullen Salada said. “It definitely helped, because I love dogs so much.”

That’s why more than a year ago the College of Human Medicine came up with the idea of bringing therapy dogs to the students in East Lansing and Grand Rapids during exam week.

With so much at stake, the students naturally are on edge. The therapy dogs are part of a broader program to ease that stress, including chair massages, yoga and music therapy, she said, but the dogs give the students something special.

In addition to arranging for the dogs to visit the two campuses during exam weeks, a pilot program was initiated to bring them into the Secchia Center in Grand Rapids once a month.

Dr. Watson and other therapy dogs underwent obedience training followed by an eight-week course to qualify as a therapy dog, said Barb Geno, president of West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc., a nonprofit organization. The dogs make regular visits to hospitals and nursing homes, as well as to the Grand Rapids and East Lansing campuses.

“I love to see it when these students come over, and their faces light up,” said Michele Eidson, Dr. Watson’s owner.

“It actually helped me to—and this is going to sound silly—but it helped me to be happy,” said Bernadene Jayasundera, a third-year student. “For some reason, just having a dog is very therapeutic. It helps you to not think about anything but this animal in front of you that’s just filled with the best intentions.”

The therapy dogs will be back on the job for students during final exams in December.


Courtesy photo of Dr. Watson from the College of Human Medicine