Students lined up for almost an hour Monday night to spend a few minutes with Opal the golden retriever and Lyli the pug as part of the University’s stress-free finals initiative, Finals Mania.
Since 2013, the University has collaborated with pet therapy program Faithful Paws to bring therapy dogs to campus during some of the most stressful weeks of the academic year. The dogs camp out in the MD Anderson Library and await cuddles, pets and treats from students looking for a break from the end of the year bedlam.
“This event is always a great stress reliever,” librarian Emily Vinson said. “We get really great feedback. Our students seem to really like it.”
UH Libraries’ Campus Engagement Committee brought the program to UH as part of a library “mini-grant,” said librarian and committee chair Ariana Rodriguez.
“We can apply for a little bit of money to do some innovative fun projects,” Vinson said.
Lyli and Opal are both certified therapy dogs, a necessity to be a part of Faithful Paws. But Lyli’s mom Kristi Rodriguez said the program provides a path for dogs to get certified through them.
“They have to pass certain tests,” Vinson said. “They can’t respond with any aggression and they can’t respond to other dogs.”
Lyli has been a therapy dog for almost two years. Her first visit was in September 2015, and Wednesday was her 69th visit as a therapy dog.
“Maybe you remember her from last semester,” Rodriguez said. “She was wearing Christmas pajamas.”
Lyli and her dog mom have regular monthly visits to libraries and the oncology unit of Memorial Hermann Hospital.
“If I can make one person forget that they’re there to get chemotherapy, it’s all worth it,” Rodriguez.
Lyli and Opal are two of four dogs that’ll be visiting campus over the next few days. Faithful Paws will be at the MD Anderson Library from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday to cuddle students dreading finals.
“She loves this,” Rodriguez said of Lyli. “We can’t wait to be back tomorrow.”