A lot of post-secondary students experience stress during the school year, and petting an animal is proven to release stress in students and improves mental health.
SAITSA hosts a Wellness Wednesday event every week on campus, offering many activities such as free breakfast, free tea at the peer support centre, free skate, Take a Break, and Pet-a-Puppy.
“We noticed that mid-week tends to be really stressful for students,” said Sarah Hogendorp, the peer support centre co-ordinator for SAITSA.
Hogendorp said that SAITSA understands that many students might not be able to have a pet due to living situations or cost. But they don’t want students to miss out on the opportunity to release stress by petting an animal.
“Puppies are cute and cuteness should be a part of everyone’s day,” said Hogendorp.
Pet-a-Puppy is important because managing your mental health is a skill that is not taught, and SAITSA is going “above and beyond” to provide students with the tools to manage their mental health, said Hogendorp.
SAITSA offeres the Pet-a-Puppy event every month, all year around, not just during exams like other post-secondary schools.
“We like to help out all through the semester, every month, without fail, puppies all the time,” said Hogendorp.
The dogs come to the event are from a volunteer organization called Pet Access League Society (PALS).
At PALS, all the animals are vetted, they have to pass personality tests, and they have to be comfortable with large numbers of people and other animals.
One of the volunteer dogs, Prudence, named after a John Lennon song, is a four-year-old golden retriever and his favourite place to volunteer is at SAITSA’s Pet-a-Puppy event.
For SAITSA’s events, five of PALS dogs usually come, and around 125 students show up to pet them.
“I’m a huge dog lover and I had a lot of stress on me due to school and I knew the dogs would calm me down,” said Theresa Meehan, a first-year hospitality management student at SAIT.
Meehan said that Pet-a-Puppy is beneficial to students because the dogs really do help with stress.
“I didn’t exactly have time to go to Pet-a-Puppy but after I did go, I felt 100 per cent better because the dogs put me in a good mood which helped me get more work done,” said Meehan.
Even if the dogs only take the students’ minds off things for 10 minutes, it is still helpful for their mental health, said Meehan.