The School Newspaper of Cathedral Catholic High School

Dogs helping Dons

December 1, 2017


Photo by Amanda Gustafson

Options student Thomas Bryne ‘20 and his mentor Mary Henderson ‘18 play with Ms. Amanda Gustafson’s dog Chantilly, a certified therapy dog, who through the organization Caring Paws, brings a little bit of happiness to the stress of finals.

Final exams season is the time of year every student dreads, a time of all nighters, highlighted by study guides, cram sessions, and student pleas. This season of schooling brings nervousness to all students around the U.S., with Cathedral Catholic High School students as no exception.

As a way to help CCHS students cope with the stress associated with finals, Love on a Leash, a therapy dog organization, volunteers to visit CCHS and its students around finals time. Established in San Diego in the 1980s, the company has spread to every state within the U.S., and each volunteer is set on helping to make someone’s day better via a dog.

Mrs. Felicia Young, a counselor at CCHS and the visit coordinator for the central San Diego chapter of Love on a Leash, has worked for this organization ever since her 7-year-old dog Bailey became eligible to serve.

“We adopted Bailey when she was three months old, and even then I knew that I wanted her to become a therapy dog,” Mrs. Young said. “This way, I know that she’ll do good in the world, and I don’t have to give her away, like I would if she were to be a seeing eye dog.”

In addition to bringing Bailey on campus, Mrs. Young also enjoys taking Bailey to the Arc of San Diego, a non-profit organization that specializes in helping children and adults with developmental disabilities.

“It is so rewarding to see Bailey working with other [people],” Mrs. Young said. “She has such a sweet disposition.”

Although many pet owners offer stress relief services, Mrs. Young performs her duties just for fun.

According to a study at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, petting a dog releases stress as levels of oxytocin, a hormone that helps regulate social and emotional interaction, increase in humans after petting a dog. Another study published in Frontiers in Psychology found 49 percent of students deal with stress on a daily basis and 26 percent of students deal with depression, which is more than four times the national average.

To deal with finals stress, as well as stress in general, Mr. Francis Caro, a CCHS AP Psychology teacher, recommends interacting with people or objects, including dogs or other animals.

“We are social, which means we need each other,” Mr. Caro said. “In a very fundamental way, we need to be held or hugged and feel comforted, like when we were children.”

Additionally, Mr. Caro recommends staying on task, eating well, and sticking to a healthy eating plan as a way to prepare for upcoming final exams.

CCHS student Riley Staal ’19 concurs.

As she is busy with school, sports, and extracurriculars, Staal ‘19 often deals with stress, but she also finds many ways to relax.

“Playing with the therapy dogs and petting them is enough to put me in a better mood if I am having a rough day or have a lot on my mind,” Staal said. “Aside from what the relief the dogs offer, there are also other ways I cope with stress. I like to listen to my favorite music and watch movies while stuffing my face with food.”

Whether students prefer spending time with friends and family, playing an instrument, or spending time with therapy dogs, it is important to relieve stress in a healthy way.

“It is not about finding the time, but making the time,” Mrs. Young said.

A mantra students should keep in mind with finals fast approaching.

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