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Big Pups on Campus: CPS Hosts Puppies and Ice Cream Event

Monmouth University’s Counseling and Prevention Services (CPS) partnered with The Seeing Eye to host a “Puppies and Ice Cream” event, aimed at reducing students’ stress as they approach the last few weeks of the semester.

According to their website, the Seeing Eye is a nonprofit organization based in Morristown, NJ that trains Seeing Eye dogs to guide people who are blind and visually impaired.

This event was a part of CPS’s initiative to provide alternate ways to support students outside of the individual counseling sessions they offer, according to Eric Kaighn, Clinical Counselor for CPS and one of the event organizers.

“Both students and professional members of the University community expressed to us the benefit of having simple, easy to access, and fun “de-stress” activities/events that students can come engage with,” Kaighn said. “We used this as our foundation to brainstorm this event.”

The Seeing Eye brought four leashed dogs to Anacon Hall, and students grouped together in circles to pet and socialize with them. The event also provided ice cream, supplied by Long Branch’s Nicholas Creamery, and arts and crafts.

“We could not have asked for an easier partnership with the Monmouth County Seeing Eye Puppy Raisers,” said Kaighn. “CPS is lucky to have had a pre-existing relationship with this organization, as multiple members of our office have a relationship with one of Monmouth’s former professors—Jamie Kretsch. Kretsch was instrumental to our efforts to coordinate with this group and advertise our event within their organization in order to get volunteers to come to campus.”

According to the American College Health Association, 33.3 percent of college students experienced average stress, 45.3 experienced more than average stress, 13.4 percent experienced tremendous stress, while 8.1 percent experienced less than average or no stress.

Kaighn described how stress can negatively affect students, both physically and emotionally. “Stress can result in headaches, sleep difficulties, and fatigue. Stress can lead to deficits in motivation and increases in feelings of irritability and anxiousness which can lead to us feeling overwhelmed and restless,” he said.

“Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)—or in this case, puppies—can help address many of these negative effects,” Kaighn continued. “AAT, and animals/pets in general, can help to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation and promote active behavior. Animals/pets can also help boost our self-esteem and self-image.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that petting dogs also lowers levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) and blood pressure. Additionally, playing with dogs releases oxytocin and dopamine, two feel-good hormones that foster positive feelings.

Ice cream, when consumed in moderation, also has some health benefits according to Kaighn. “While the taste of ice cream is subjective, it can be a source of vitamins and minerals (Vitamin A, B12, D, niacin, and calcium) as well as energy due to its richness in carbohydrates, fats, and proteins,” he said. “Consuming ice cream (again, in moderation) can help reduce feelings of sadness, stress, and anxiety.” Kaighn also explained that the milk found in most ice cream is rich in L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid and natural tranquilizer that can help relax the central nervous system.

According to Kaighn, over 150 students attended or stopped by the event. “It felt like there was a significant turnout of both students and staff,” Kaighn concluded. “The event felt like a success to us here at CPS, and we hope that the students felt the same.”

“I got super excited when I heard about this event, especially since school has been stressful with finals coming up,” said Hayley Curtis, a senior communication student. “Getting that little break with the puppies brought me so much joy and brightened my day.”

“I was so happy when I heard we were having this event,” concurred Shaima Hassan, a senior health studies student. “I was having a crazy week with several assignments and multiple exams. I was extremely overwhelmed and barely made it to the event, but I am thankful I made time to come. Spending some time with puppies and friends helped me let go of a bunch of anxiety.”

Puppies will be returning to campus on Tuesday, Dec. 6 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a “De-Stress Fest” in Anacon Hall, organized by Student Activities. This event will also feature food, arts and crafts, chair massages, a DIY lotion factory and reed diffusers, and wellness-themed goodie bags.