THERAPY dog George has a wonderful talent for helping relieve students of stress around exam time.
The five-year-old spoodle – trained to be calm in all situations – visits campuses, charity events and high schools such as St Hilda’s for cuddles and companionship.
“It’s astonishing to see his effect on people – he looks like a fluffy teddy bear and as soon as students see him they start laughing, some even start crying because they are a bit overwhelmed,” owner and Associate Professor Shirley Bode, of Curtin University, said.
“Before exams, students can be anxious and stressed and when there is a therapy animal around, it takes them out of that mindset.
“Research shows that when you pat animals, your anxiety levels are lowered and you feel more relaxed.”
George is a certified trained therapy dog, starting in his role with non-profit organisation Animal Companions and visiting people with dementia.
“We’d go there on weekends and George would interact and get people to engage and that would encourage people to talk and reminisce,” Prof Bode said.
“Then about two-and-a-half years ago at Curtin, I was walking past the exam venues and I could just feel the tension and the stress and I thought I’d really like to bring my dog here and introduce him as a way of helping students de-stress for their exams.
“You can see the whole atmosphere change when George arrives.”
Now a regular at the uni around exam time, George is titled an official Curtin wellness activity.
“Everyone wants to cuddle and take selfies with him and he’s tagged on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat,” Prof Bode said.
“I set up a Facebook page for him, facebook.com/GeorgeTheTherapyDog: he’s got almost 2000 friends.
“People talk to him and ask: ‘Are you coming on campus? Where are you going to be?’ and he responds to every question.”
George can be booked for schools across Perth.
“I love seeing students happy and smiling and laughing,” Prof Bode said.
“I get a lot out of it ,as does George and the students.”