Feel Good Friday: Virtual Pet Therapy shows old and new friends

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The University of Connecticut’s Student Health and Wellness released a virtual pet therapy video, as seen on the UConn Student Health Instagram page on Friday, Oct. 16.  

In the video, Student Health and Wellness partnered with Tails of Joy, a nonprofit pet therapy organization, to make a video montage of pets, Colleen Atkinson, health educator from UConn Student Health and Wellness, said. The pets featured in the video are a mixture of “regulars” from the in-person pet therapy program, additional Tails of Joys pets and Student Health and Wellness staff members’ personal pets.   

“Students can click on the video, get a good laugh and a smile on their face to get through this difficult time and see some familiar faces,” Atkinson said.  

Some of the new animals included AJ the turtle, Annie the anole lizard, Lexi the German Shepherd and Sadie the Golden Retriever. Atkinson said that during the in-person pet therapy, only dogs are allowed. In the virtual format,  Student Health and Wellness had the opportunity to “branch out” and show different types of pets, she said.  

Atkinson said that the pet therapy program has been at UConn for over a decade. However, due to state regulations and the nature of working with two volunteer organizations, Student Health and Wellness is unable to have in-person therapy sessions this semester.  

“We know students love the dogs and we don’t want students to think we got rid of the program,” Atkinson said.    

She said being in the presence and interacting with pets is scientifically proven to reduce stress and blood pressure. Although there has been little to no research on the effects of virtual pet therapy, the video allows students to have the ability to be cheered up by the pets whenever they want, Atkinson said.  

“The video is great because you can click on it whenever you want,” Atkinson said.  

Atkinson said Student Health and Wellness employees enjoyed the video and hope that the UConn community is liking it as well.  

“COVID-19 has changed everything for students and staff,” Atkinson said. “If it’s getting positive feedback from our staff, saying the video is putting a smile on their face, it’s probably doing that for our students.”  

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