Numerous studies show that seeing and petting animals can lower stress in people. During finals week, most college students stress levels are at an all-time high.
Luckily for students at IUPUI, every year the school brings in pet therapy organization, Love on a Leash (LOAL). This is a completely non-profit organization of pet owners and their dogs volunteering their time to help those in need.
On April 27, LOAL came to IUPUI with six dogs in the TV lounge of the campus center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. as part of the Jagapalooza events.
“IUPUI has asked us to come out for quite a few years now to do some de-stress for finals, just providing some comfort that a lot of studies show help people to calm down and do a better job on their testing,” Debbie White, North Central Indiana Chapter Leader, said.
LOAL is a nation wide organization with four chapters just around the Indianapolis area. They attend a wide variety of events all around the city. The North Central Indiana chapter is located mainly in Hamilton County while the Healing Paws chapter is located in Marion County.
“We have a regular visit schedule, we go to the same place maybe once or twice a month. We also go to schools, Hamilton County Juvenile Detention Center, nursing homes, and the library for reading programs,” White said.
LOAL also go to special events based on their requests. Just last month LOAL visited the Indiana Parkinson’s Foundation in Hamilton County for Parkinson’s Awareness month.
“Our dogs are trained for emotional support. They aren’t assistance dogs and they don’t have the ability to go in restaurants or on planes,” volunteer Sara Steckbeck said.
All of the animals in each chapter are certified. They each have to go through training to ensure that their temperament is okay and they do well in social situations. It is also important that the handlers are able to control their animals.
“We have no breed restrictions at all in our organization. We have pit bulls in our group, we have a rottweiler, a lot of the groups have dobermans,” White said. “We also have cats and some of the chapters have rabbits.”
White brought her 10-year-old golden doodle Gunner with her to IUPUI’s event. They have been working as a team with LOAL for about four years.
“He really likes the teens and older kids so we always do the detention center. He actually really likes going to jail and the kids there know him and like him,” White said about her dog.
The next visit scheduled for LOAL is next week at Hamilton County schools for their heart, mind and soul presentation about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Visits are organized and then the volunteers can sign their team up for whatever events they are available for. There are different dogs at every event.
“When my husband and I retired, we wanted to do something meaningful and helpful to the community, so this is one of the things we do,” Steckbeck said. “We ran into LOAL at a dog fair and have been involved for about four years.”
The Indianapolis chapters of LOAL are continuing to make a difference in the community as well as nationwide. For more information and history on the organization, visit loveonaleash.org