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Bemidji State students de-stress with pets ahead of finals week – Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Cordial canines and friendly felines were on full display as Bemidji State students sought to relieve some stress prior to finals coming up this week.

On Tuesday, the semiannual “De-Stress with Pets” made its fall semester appearance in the Beaux Arts Ballroom, a day before Reading Day where a number of students will cram in some last-minute studying before finals begin on Thursday.

“I’ve pretty much been non-stop studying this past week and yet I seem to have retained none of the information,” Mass Communication major Josie Kyle said while waiting to pet some dogs. “But, this is a good opportunity to clear my head.”

Bemidji State junior Josie Kyle pets a dog during De-Stress With Pets on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, at BSU’s Beaux Arts Ballroom. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

De-Stress with Pets has previously been held in the Crying Wolf Room in Lower Hobson Memorial Union, though COVID caused the event to find a new home last year in the Beaux Arts Ballroom to allow for more social distancing.

“The advantage of (having the event in Beaux Arts) is that we have room for more animals,” BSU Health Education Coordinator Jay Passa said. “In addition to

Great River Rescue

, we also have the Paul Bunyan Dog Training Association.”

This is the second year the

Paul Bunyan Dog Training Association

has been a part of De-Stress with Pets, an opportunity that member Tracy Parthun couldn’t turn down when Passa offered.

“With COVID, we haven’t been able to visit as many places,” Parthun mentioned while a group of students tended to her 7-year-old golden retriever named Skye. “When Jay talked to us about interacting with the students, we just jumped at the opportunity.”

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Bemidji State freshman Aurora Ames plays with golden retriever Skye at De-Stress With Pets on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, at BSU’s Beaux Arts Ballroom. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Parthun detailed several visits her team of 30 dogs and handlers typically make without a pandemic looming over their heads including those to long-term care facilities, assisted living and community behavioral health hospitals. Now, this event is an added opportunity for social interaction.

“We were just really excited to be included in this because the dogs really miss interacting with the people. They’re used to going out weekly and to have no visits at all was a bit of a withdrawal for (the dogs),” Parthun added with a laugh.

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A cat receives a cheek rub at De-Stress With Pets on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, at BSU’s Beaux Arts Ballroom. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Aside from showing off therapy dogs, co-sponsor

Active Minds

, a mental health organization with a BSU chapter, tabled with ADA information regarding emotional support and service animals.

“Emotional support animals are not allowed on campus, so we’re giving out information for students to get animals off-campus,” Active Minds Co-President Keyanna Barker said.

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Mr. Fluffy Pants, a one-month old kitten, charms Bemidji State students at De-Stress With Pets on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, at BSU’s Beaux Arts Ballroom. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Barker echoed the same sentiments many of the attendees were expressing during their time in the ballroom and pointed to stress relief.

“I’m really happy that we’re allowed to have the animals here and do this for our students because it is definitely a need especially around this time on campus with everyone being stressed over finals,” Barker added. “It’s amazing to see everyone’s smiles, though (with masks on) you can only really see (the smiles) through people’s eyes.”

A research poster by Psychology Professor Angela Fournier also displayed stress reduction data since 2015, including average comparisons of a student’s level of stress from before attending De-Stress with Pets to after.

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Banjo enjoys some belly rubs from Bemidji State freshman Abby Heinen at De-Stress With Pets on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, at BSU’s Beaux Arts Ballroom. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

When asked to rank their stress level on a scale of one to 10, students have consistently reported a three-point decrease after spending around 15 minutes with the animals.

A “Caring Campus Canines” event will also take place Tuesday, Dec. 14, from 3 to 5 p.m. on the third floor of A.C. Clark Library, another chance for students to de-stress in the midst and grind of finals week.

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Grandee, a 14-year-old golden retriever, is pet at De-Stress With Pets on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, at BSU’s Beaux Arts Ballroom. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)