Student Life

Round of A-Paws for Therapy Dogs at SAU

Above is QCCAN member Katie Howley and her dog Reyna. (Photo courtesy of Kaylee Parsons)

Mid-semester can be stress-inducing for SAU students and for many, spending time with a four-legged friend helps relieve the pressure. 

St. Ambrose has taken the time to help boost students’ mental health by bringing therapy dogs to campus throughout the semester. 

Sophomore psychology major, Isabelle Schad says, “Getting to interact with these dogs helps me relieve stress. During such a rough time of the school year, they give me ease.”

Freshman music education major, Haley Sweatman says, “When these dogs come to campus, it gives me so much joy. Just their presence makes me feel better.”

Throughout the year, members of the Quad Cities Canine Association Network (QCCAN) are invited to St. Ambrose’s campus to interact with students. According to their website, the QCCAN holds over 200 events per year at different schools, nursing facilities, and community events. 

These dogs love their jobs and always look forward to working. Therapy dog owner and QCCAN member, Jayne Knott says, “As soon as I get the vest out, Rosie is ready to work, and she gets so excited.” 

Above is QCCAN member Jayne Knott and her dog Rosie. (Photo courtesy of Kaylee Parsons)

Knott is formerly the assistant to the dean at St. Ambrose’s College of Business, and says, “This is such a rewarding experience and it is all I want to do in my retirement. The dogs provide a tremendous calming presence and help people step away from their current stress to enjoy their peace.”

A study done by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) shows therapy dogs help reduce stress for college students. 

“The use of therapy dogs for university students has shown significant reductions in outcome measures of psychological and physiological stress. Students who lived away from home also reported less homesickness and increased satisfaction due to having the dogs on campus, which created a relaxed and soothing environment,” says the NLM. 

Many SAU students say they miss their dogs at home and seeing the therapy dogs on campus help them get through it. “I really miss my dogs and this definitely helps me cope with being apart from them,” says Sweatman. 

Animals can provide emotional support that is necessary to make it through the difficulties of college. SAU senior, Hannah Knowles knows first-hand, “I have an emotional support animal (ESA) because I was formerly diagnosed with anxiety. I knew I didn’t want to come to college without my biggest supporter – my cat Junie. A big anxiety trigger for me is being or feeling alone, but having Junie around takes that panic away. It sounds silly to some, but she’s my lifeline.” 

The American Psychological Association (APA) has found that, “By nearly every metric, student mental health is worsening. More than 60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health problem, according to the Healthy Minds Study, which collects data from 373 campuses nationwide.” 

The NLM confirms that stress is one of the most common feelings that students experience and it could impact their college experience. “University students have been found to have higher rates of psychological distress than that of the general population.” According to the American College Health Association, stress is the most commonly reported barrier to students’ academic success.

“The American College Health Association’s National Assessment surveyed American university students. Students reported that within the past year, 58.4% felt overwhelming anxiety, 59% felt very lonely, 65% felt very sad, 37% felt so depressed that they found it difficult to function.”

SAU students who visit with the service dogs report feelings of stress and anxiety during this time of year. This is why members of the QCAAN do what they do. “I can tell Reyna [QCAAN therapy dog] makes a huge positive impact on the people she interacts with. So many students tell me that seeing her helps them deal with being homesick. Helping others is what Reyna loves to do and people respond really well because dogs don’t judge,” says QCAAN member and 5th grade teacher Katie Howley. 

For students who may need help during the semester, the Counseling Center at St. Ambrose University is always available to help. “The Center provides brief individual and group counseling to current SAU students and consultation to faculty and staff. The Center provides a confidential, supportive and collaborative environment for open discussion of personal issues. We work towards making positive changes to one’s thoughts, feelings, relationships, behavior/life situation,” according to the SAU website. 

The Eastern Iowa crisis number has been updated to 1-855-581-8111.