De-stress with Dogs

De-stress with Dogs

Senior Elli Lenz decided to take initiative with a mission to help as many students as she can. The warm, loving attitude of dogs sparked the idea of utilizing animals to aid the mental state of Waukee students. She sees the toll of school work and hectic lives surrounding her, and this inspired an ambitious project.

On March 22, she will bring about 6 to 7 dogs to several 2nd block classes, in an effort to help with the distress over finals. Therapy dogs are a common practice, proven to assist those with anxiety, depression, and overall raise energy and positivity. The classes involved will be those of the following teachers: Fairbanks, Vollmecke, Pries, Gaul, Jeschke and Hannigan, along with the special ed wing. It will take approximately 15-20 minutes of class time. Lenz hopes that in the future, this plan will expand past those few teachers but in the beginning stages she had to find teachers who were up to the idea, and then avoid taking on more than the new mission could handle.

“The beginning stages were really slow, I called probably 15 to 20 different organizations about animal assisted therapy. If you google it, Stanford does this, Yale and Harvard do it. Iowa, Grandview, Iowa State – they all have therapy dogs especially during finals time,” Lenz informed. She worked to organize this over the last 4 to 5 months, through struggling to find the dogs and a struggle with administration to get approved. She was finally able to access the therapy through the ARL, who she went to in frustration with the lack of response from organizations that work with colleges. She found the the ARL had actually began a similar program with about 80-90 other organizations like businesses.

AAT_ExpToDate_Pie_Fig4Lenz shared, “The dogs are really awesome. The biggest issue administration had was what if students are afraid of dogs, and our answer to that was “Well if they are afraid they don’t have to participate.’” They will be sending permission slips with the students to avoid any issues with their fear or allergies.

“It drives me crazy how if somebody has the flu and they are in class and you can tell they are really sick, people are like “Oh my god that’s awful and you need to go to the doctor, you should go to the nurse, you shouldn’t be at school,’” professed Lenz. “But people who have anxiety or depression, people don’t look twice at that.” Her plan is much bigger than wanting to see students have fun with dogs, she wants to change the dynamic of discussion surrounding mental illness and stress. “I’m hoping it can reduce how students are ostracized. People don’t want to talk about mental illness and I think this is a good start.”