• Tracy Huang

A Puppy-Filled Valentine’s Day at the Science Center

Updated: Feb 22

On February 14, Valentine’s Day, smiles and laughter were abundant as students pet dogs in the Science Center for the Canine Valentine’s Day event. Sponsored by the Amherst Counseling Center, the Science Center, and the Alumni and Parent Programs, Canine Valentine’s Day provided pet owners with the opportunity to bring their furry friends on campus for Amherst students to play with. The event took place in the Science Center Living Room, filled with provided dog and human treats (delicious cookies!). As my friends and I showed up to the event, I couldn’t help but smile as I pet the dogs, which included Daisy, a small but hyper dog who immediately licked my friend on the cheek and was overly excited to enter the biology lab!

While we all know dogs are a man’s best friend, it turns out that there are also real psychological benefits when people play with dogs. For one, engaging with dogs can reduce stress levels and increase happiness and energy. In one psychology study at the University of British Columbia, the 246 students that pet and cuddled therapy dogs during drop-in sessions reported decreased stress levels and increased happiness even ten hours after the sessions. In fact, companies such as Amazon and Etsy, just to name a few, are starting to allow dog-friendly work environments since dogs are known to reduce stress in the workplace.

Additionally, interactions with dogs are psychologically beneficial to improving peoples’ moods. Studies indicate that dog owners who are able to spend time with their dogs on a daily basis experience lower levels of depression, as dogs have a calming presence and bring feelings of social bonding. Other research demonstrates that spending time with dogs can boost moods by lessening loneliness, as dog ownership has been correlated with a sense of companionship and social support.

Subsequently, studies have proven that dogs are able to increase our mindfulness, which can in turn lead to feelings of calmness and comfort. Since dogs are able to be more aware of their surroundings and be more engaged in the present rather than worrying about the past or future, they prompt us to do the same. During the Canine Valentine’s Day, I observed that the dogs were fascinated by their new environment, constantly staring at their reflection in the glass doors, sniffing the Science Center chairs and carpet, or wagging their tails at every new student they saw. Correspondingly, I noticed that students were able to emulate the mindfulness of the dogs and be more present in the moment, taking the time to notice the wonderfully cheesy Valentine’s pick-up lines hanging from the second floor, or stopping to savor scrumptious heart-shaped sugar cookies.

Given that Amherst College students can be stressed by challenging classes, athletics, clubs, and activities, Canine Valentine’s Day gave students an opportunity to calm down and simply be in the moment as they basked in the cuteness of the dogs present. In the face of labs, exams, and papers, the carefree smiles and love that the dogs gifted were the perfect thing students needed this Valentine’s Day.

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