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Pause For Paws

Charley and Tom DeCicco. (Photo from Therapy Dogs of South Florida)

College final exam preparation can be a very stressful time for students. Who better to relieve some of the stress than a couple of dogs?

Kelly and Charlie are two such dogs. The yellow Lab/Golden Retriever mix dogs are canine Therapy Dogs that not only work in hospitals with the sick and elderly; they even travel to college campuses to be stress-relievers for young adults. The students at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida were visited recently by Kelly and Charlie on the university lawn in a two-hour therapy event called "Paws and Relax."

According to Lynn University Psychotherapist Kirt McClellan, "Pet therapy has been recognized to help increase coping skills and decrease stress." Many studies have touted the benefits of animals and their positive effect on education and human development.

Kelly and Charlie have also turned a tense reading environment into a fun experience through the Children Reading to Dogs study group. Elementary students are given the opportunity to read aloud to the dogs in a non-threatening place where they are able to read for fun and without the risk of being embarrassed about mispronouncing a word or reading at a slower pace. The 3rd grade students who participated in this eight-week pilot program "achieved higher fluency and comprehension reading levels." Kelly and Charlie were unbelievable motivators as children overcame anxiety as well as their fear of dogs. The canines also work with children with autism to increase their verbal output, decrease aggression and increase listening and attention.

The younger and older students sing the dogs praises. Many of the college students said that their stress level decreased substantially once they had been around the dogs.

Kelly and Charlie are owned by Tom DeCicco, who owns the Boca Raton-based Therapy Dogs of South Florida. The dogs begin their training at 10-weeks of age which helps them to learn to remain calm under any circumstance. Last year, the therapy dog teams received Wachovia Bank's "Community Service Award."

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