On Friday, Apr. 27, about 200 members of the NJIT community stopped by the Campus Center Ballroom to play with seven dogs. The dogs ranged from a tiny Chihuahua nestled in the arms of a volunteer, to an exuberant black-and-white Papillon mix who couldn’t stop wagging his tail, to a gentle pit bull named Tulip who learned how to sit in five minutes when given the incentive of treats.
Doggy Playtime was hosted for the second time by student organization Minds Matter–a club founded last semester dedicated to raising awareness of and stopping the stigma surrounding mental health–and the Newark branch of the Associated Humane Societies (AHS) animal shelter. This event sought to accomplish two goals: help students destress before finals and give the shelter dogs exposure to possible adopters.
“I know there’s a huge interest in dogs,” said Charu Arya, Minds Matter President, “so with this event we worked in collaboration with the Newark animal shelter … There’s a lot of students here who are commuters, so these students go home and have places where they could potentially keep dogs. Through this event, students get exposure to these dogs, and also have the opportunity to destress. One of our main goals is destressing for students because we’re approaching finals season and it can be really stressful. We have so many things to do as college students,”
Research has shown that petting a friendly dog can reduce blood pressure, lower one’s heart rate, and relax muscle tension, which are all physical signs of stress relief. Interacting with pets can also lower the stress hormone cortisol, while increasing mood-improving and calming hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin, according to a joint study between Columbia University and the University of Missouri.
To bring the dogs to NJIT, some Minds Matter members were trained at the animal shelter. Additionally, AHS volunteers and staff members stayed throughout the event to oversee the dogs.
“[The event was] awesome; it’s great exposure for our shelter, the kids seem to have fun, the dogs enjoy the day out,” said Jennifer Vuoculo, Assistant Director of AHS. “Adopt, don’t shop, and come visit us. If you’re over 18, inquire about volunteering; we’d be glad to have you. We’ve had a few of your students volunteer with us, and I think last semester one of your students adopted after the event.”
Some students were highly interested in potentially adopting one of the dogs from the event. Others were interested, but lamented the fact that pets are not feasible in their dorm or home. Regardless of whether or not they intended to adopt, it seems like everyone enjoyed petting the dogs and attempting to take selfies with them, a task made difficult by the dogs’ high energy. A wide variety of students stopped by the event, ranging from seniors to freshmen (and even one professor!)—all united by their appreciation for dogs.
“It’s great that they have all these dogs here to let people know that [AHS] has dogs available for adoption, and to show that the dogs are still friendly [even if they’re from the shelter],” said Joseph Adriance, a freshman with an undecided major who came to play with the dogs before heading to class. “A lot of people think that pit bulls are a very aggressive breed, but these pit bulls here are obviously not aggressive at all.”
Arya stated, “hosting the event was a little bit stressful, but it wasn’t too bad because, having hosted it the first time, we knew what we were doing and were able to improve it for this semester.” If you missed out this year, fear not because Minds Matter and AHS are planning on hosting the event again next semester.
Photos by Michael Makar