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Pause with paws

Southern Oregon University senior Sherry Nurre

(see correction, below) believes that when finals-week nerves strike, students need a little help from their best friend.

Nurre is bringing Clive, her 4-year-old Shih Tzu, and a host of other therapy dogs on campus during final exams in June to help calm anxieties as part of a class project.

The communications major rallied other therapy dog owners to her cause, gained approval from the SOU administration, and scheduled her pet-in for June 11-13.

Called "Paws for Relaxation," the therapy dogs will be available to students from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. each of those days at SOU's Hannon Library.

"There's power in the pooch to take away those feelings of stress and dread that come with having to cram all this knowledge in your brain and regurgitate it, knowing you will forget it," says Nurre.

Many students, she adds, grew up having pet cats and dogs to soothe them in hard times and miss the animals while they're away at college.

The dog days will follow de-stressing days, which kick off in the middle of "quiet week" (study week before exams). Soothing music, meditation lessons, healthy snacks and qigong classes — all free — will be offered from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 6 in the Rogue River Room of the Stevenson Union.

Nurre got the idea from her volunteer work in hospice in Tucson, Ariz., where the organization offered not just therapy dogs, but rabbits and a Clydesdale horse.

"Studies show that animals help lower blood pressure, boost your immune system and distract you from stress, which is all about letting your mind dwell in the past or future," Nurre says. "They give you a chance to be completely present and see, touch and feel who they are."

Sharing Clive's therapeutic powers with students studying in the library foyer last week, Nurre points out his "magic healing powers that make you forget stress."

"It's definitely relaxing and takes off all the pressures and stress of school," said Cayleigh Lee, one of a group in the library preparing for a history presentation. "We're a lot more joyful now. I want to come back and see Clive in exam week."

Another, Emilie Maury, agreed that she'll be back for a canine cuddle between exams, noting, "It's so relaxing. I love dogs."

The de-stressing dog days are part of Nurre's practicum in human communications, something she hopes to continue as she studies for her graduate degree in social work.

Email freelance writer John Darling at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Note: Nurre's last name has been corrected from an earlier version.