Students unwind with CMHC therapy dogs at Pause for Paws

A line of students waiting to spend time with the certified therapy dogs stretched down the basement hallway of the Student Services Building on Tuesday.

As part of Longhorn Welcome, the Counseling and Mental Health Center, University Health Services, Title IX Office and Student Emergency Services held its second annual Pause for Paws event where students could pet therapy dogs and learn about different mental health resources on campus.

Representatives from University Health Services and Interpersonal Violence Peer Support, a support program for students who have been impacted by interpersonal violence, talked with around 50 students about ways they can utilize and get involved in available programs.

“The goal of the event is to really encourage students to take care of themselves, so that’s why we have the therapy dogs here. Also, to spread awareness about the different resources that we have on campus,” said Kelsey Lammy, mental health promotion coordinator for CMHC. 

Two dogs, Charlie and Mica, were at the event wearing burnt orange bandanas. To avoid overwhelming the dogs, students took turns waiting to pet the dogs in a circle formation around them. While they waited for their turn, event organizers handed out stickers, pins and pamphlets to raise awareness for their organizations and give students mental health resources. 

“We are trying to put our message out there because not a whole lot of people know about Interpersonal Violence Peer Support, and it’s an incredibly helpful resource,” said Lauris Stewart, a speech pathology junior and peer supporter for the group. “I know that statistically, there are people who need someone to talk to and don’t think that resource is available.”

Lammy said research shows spending time with animals can decrease stress, and therapy animals are certified and trained to handle lots of affection from strangers who need a moment of self-care.

“Whenever we see cute things, it makes us happy,” corporate communication freshman Lauren Caples said. “We just forget about everything else that is wrong in the world, and in the moment, we are just like, ‘Ugh, this dog is so cute.’”

Although students only had a few minutes with the dogs, Lammy said CMHC encourages students to find time to pause for self-care throughout the day. She said CMHC will hold more events with therapy animals Sept. 10 and 16 as part of Suicide Prevention Week.

“Practicing a couple minutes of self-care a day can make a big difference,” Lammy said.