Noah Guillory, a junior at the Runnels School, headed outside after a particularly tough final exam May 21, got down in the grass and played with puppies.
“I needed this,” Guillory said, smiling broadly, which he admits probably wouldn’t be the case without the four-legged stress relief.
And the crowd of classmates huddled around the puppy pens, on loan to the Runnels School by Animal House Rescue and Companion Animal Alliance, was proof enough that the idea was, as Principal Conchetta Foshee suspected, genius.
“There have been some fairly well-known studies out of Yale and Penn State that show this is an effective way to de-stress students,” Foshee said.
When teacher Lee Randall brought up the idea of doing the same thing for the first time at Runnells, “I got an enthusiastic yes,” she said.
A big part of the Runnels’ culture is the care and humane treatment of animals. Students conduct fundraisers throughout the year to support rescue groups, Randall said, and several staff members and parents work with rescue organizations in their spare time.
In addition to that, Foshee said, stress is a huge factor at this time of year, and anything they can do as a school to reduce that stress is well worth doing. “Our students will perform better if they’re more relaxed,” she said.
That’s one of the reasons Jodi Golden, a Runnels parent and CAA volunteer, chose the school for her child.
“It’s not just about academics here, it’s about the whole kid,” she said. It also teaches students awareness and to be kind to animals.
But it’s not just good for the students, said Jackie Fellows, volunteer and outreach coordinator for CAA.
“It’s a great way for us to help get the dogs socialized, and that helps with their adoptability later on,” she said. “We’ve done this at Episcopal and LSU, too,” she said, and they’re always willing to coordinate similar outings with shelter dogs when they can.
The shelter can often be a stressful place for dogs, she added, so giving them an outing away from their cages is good for the dogs’ mental health, as well.
While they don’t usually get any adoptions out of these trips, she said, it’s been a great way to raise awareness for the shelter and has helped fundraising efforts.
Judging on how packed the courtyard was between tests, Foshee said she would love to keep the program going and bring dogs out for mutual destressing for as many exams as possible.
For more information on adoption, contact the Companion Animal Alliance, http://www.caabr.org/.
To get information on coordinating an outing or volunteering to help, contact Fellows at firstname.lastname@example.org.