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Exam pressure and the stress leading up to it can cause unnatural, temporary shifts in students’ eating and sleeping habits. Recently, I felt this familiar empty feeling in my stomach two days before my ECN 102 exam, and the first thing I chose to do was take a nap. A very, very, long one. Probably as long as I would have taken to complete studying a chapter for the test.

In my case, exam pressure usually leads to me feeling moody, snappy and overwhelmed. I push my friends away for a while and forget to call my parents, who are halfway across the globe. I go into a shell. All students have different ways of coping with exam stress and anxiety.

When I felt overwhelmed before my exams in high school back at home, I used to run downstairs and just sit with my dogs for a while. Sometimes I took my laptop down with me. Those 15 minutes with them was a good buffer for my mind to recalibrate, allowing me to effectively learn all the material for my tests. Over the years, I’ve realized that spending time with animals improves mental and physical well-being. Furthermore, having a healthy amount of interaction with animals contributes to a more positive outlook. Hence, a mobile animal-assisted therapy, or “Pet Therapy on Wheels” could help college students, especially during times when they experience stress and anxiety from exams.

Pet therapy lowers blood pressure and improves the overall cardiovascular health of a person. It may be a temporary measure, but experiencing a session of animal-assisted therapy can release endorphins that produce a calming effect to help alleviate pain, reduce stress and depression and improve your overall psychological state.



Syracuse University offers a wonderful pet therapy program at the Barnes Center at The Arch that I thoroughly enjoyed. One can also request pet therapy by contacting one of the local partner organizations working with SU. As efficient as this program is, a mobile pet therapy program could be even more beneficial to students.

When COVID-19 was the most discussed, uncertain and anxiety-inducing topic in March 2020, my classmates and I were waiting on our TRF 205 professor, discussing the possibility of college reopening after spring break. In walks Professor Schoonmaker with his beautiful husky assisting him to help subsidize some of the negative energy that filled the room. You could just tell that there was an immediate switch in the mood. We continued to discuss COVID-19 and college; however with a cute, fluffy stress-buster sitting by our side, it was hard to stay tense.

I’m proposing an “on Wheels” version of pet therapy because it would increase accessibility for students, saving them the time it takes to walk all the way to the Barnes Center. A mobile pet therapy program would also support students dealing with a lack of motivation. And I’m not talking about physical motivation, so please don’t misconstrue my reasoning for laziness. The lack of mental motivation and disinterestedness that infects your mind, especially during times of high pressure and stress, can really be exhausting. When a student feels this way, their temptation to be around a dog may be skyrocketing, but knowing that they would have to walk over to the Barnes Center could immediately cause this temptation to plummet. During moments like these, having Pet Therapy on Wheels would truly be a blessing in disguise.

Allow me to digress for a moment. Imagine it’s your freshman year. You’re a student who is still yet to figure out where you fit in or who your social circle should include. You’re experiencing overwhelming time pressure, exam pressure and social pressure. If you haven’t been bombarded by these thoughts at least once in your college life, are you even a student? A mobile pet therapy program, though, could help in these situations.

If Pet Therapy on Wheels made stops at different areas across Main Campus and South Campus at least once a week, it would make for a great networking opportunity for the students. And for those of you who don’t believe you aren’t good at communication, who cares? You meet another person at the Pet Therapy on Wheels session, you already have something to talk about! It also works out well if you’re one of those people who didn’t put in the effort to get to know your neighbors (me, last semester).

I hope that the Barnes Center will be able to collaborate with its local partner organizations such as Go Team Therapy Dogs, PAWS of CNY and Pet Partners of CNY to help create mobile pet therapy for students. This would be especially helpful during exam days to reduce the overall stress and performance anxiety induced by academics. As a family at SU, we must all work towards promoting inclusivity and protecting the mental health of all students as they go through college life, and a mobile pet therapy program would be one way of doing that.

Shriya Vinod Menon is a Junior Television, Radio and Film major with a minor in Psychology. Her column appears bi-weekly and she can be reached at svmenon@syr.edu

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