Therapy dog George helps Curtin University students relieve stress

Students unwind with therapy dog George at Curtin University.
Therapy dog George.
Students unwind with therapy dog George at Curtin University. Therapy dog George.

CUTE, fluffy and with a face like a teddy bear, George Bode is not the average Curtin University staff member.

But students will tell you he is definitely one of the most popular.

As the university’s therapy dog, George’s duties range from visiting students before exams, posing for promotional photos and being available to provide stress-relieving cuddles.

His owner and Curtin University Professor Shirley Bode said George had been volunteering his services for years to a wide community for years.

“I’ve always personally volunteered on some level, so when I found out therapy dogs were a thing I thought ‘great, now I keep can volunteering but I don’t have to leave George home alone’,” Prof Bode said.

“So he’s been at Curtin for about a year now, but we’ve been volunteering at a dementia facility in Bullcreek for the past few years.

“He’s been so great for the dementia patients, so I thought he’d be great for the university too.

“I had him risk assessment cleared so he can be on the campus, and he’s got access to all areas.”

Ms Bode said she believed the power of therapy dogs could reduce stress dramatically in both students and adults.

George often visits the library to bring a smile to studying students and works a roster to make it to the morning, afternoon and evening exams.

“There are usually squeals of excitement when people see him, and everyone wants a cuddle,” Prof Bode said.

“Research shows that stroking animals can lower blood pressure.

“And when pet owners pat their animals, their heart beats sync up.”

As well as working with students, George plays a role in mental well-being of staff when he assists counsellors.

“George is a Curtin Approved Wellness Activity,” Prof Bode said.

“Staff might be out on worker’s compensation, so when they’re doing a return to work plan, the counsellors will borrow him to spend time with the people who are distressed.

“So he works with the staff formally that way, but informally he roams around the campus, he has such a broad reach and he loves the attention.”

A study in 2015 by Curtin University-run Hackathon showed female students in the last two years of high school were less likely to feel stress and improved their classroom performance when given the chance to interact with puppies.

Last week, George headed the People Under Pressure at School (PUPS) program that visited St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls.

George and puppies from animal shelter SAFE attended the school and helped to de-stress the students following their exams.

St Hilda’s students get puppy surprise to help de-stress after exams