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Students were able to pet trained therapy dogs, brought by the Pet Away Life Stress program, at Melville Library on Thursday afternoon. ANNA CORREA/THE STATESMAN

With midterms approaching, sometimes stress can get the best of students. But students studying at Melville Library on Thursday had the opportunity to pet their stress away.

PALS, which is short for Pet Away Life Stress, brought trained therapy dogs to the library to reduce stress and provide relaxation for students,

“I had three midterms,” Aryanna Samms, senior sociology major, said. “I come all the time, every time there’s a puppy event. I have a cat at home, and seeing these dogs helps me feel better. I like how they’re calm. They’re relaxed. I’ve been going for the past four years. I’ve found out about this program freshman year and been going ever since.”

The program is a collaboration between Melville Library, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the Patchogue Rotary Animal Assisted Therapy (PRAAT).

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“One of things that I think is so important, especially with such a diverse patronage, is that many of these students come from foreign countries and they don’t get to see their families,” Lisa Miller, senior assistant head of public services at Melville Library, said. “One of the major things they lack is physical contact. So I think being able to come here and lay on the floor with the animals, is extremely beneficial to their mental well-being, especially during midterms.”

A PALS event is held at least once a semester, but the the university is looking to increase the frequency of the program.

“I would love to be able to expand it,” Miller said. “I would love to line the galleria with pets.”

PRAAT is a non-profit organization that was started in 1993 by veterinarian Dr. Dave Henson, according to the organization’s website. His intentions were to allow dog owners to share their dogs to the community.

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With the help of 66 volunteer canine teams, PRAAT has visited over 30 different healthcare facilities throughout Suffolk County, according to PRAAT Administrative Assistant Cindy Amodio. The organization has even been invited to the Puppy Bowl in New York City. They also bring dogs to elementary schools and middle schools to help kids become more comfortable reading.

“Total we do anywhere from 100-140 visits a month,”  Amodio said. “It’s caught up a bit over 25 years. All the dogs are screened for temperament, health and personality. If they pass that then they go through 10 weeks of basic obedience, geared for animal assisted therapy.”

The CHILL peer leadership program also assisted PALS organizers with the event on Thursday. The program teaches students about mental health through experimental and interactive learning opportunities.

The interns receive assessments, mentorship opportunities and training in order to know how to interact with peers about mental health, according to Riley Lestingi, junior health science major and CHILL mentor. At the Student Activities Center, they run depression screenings, and students meet with professional staff after getting their results.

“It’s been proven that students are more likely to seek out mental help and resources if other students are there providing them and acting as a liaison, because there’s less relatability when adults or mental help figures do it,” Lestingi said. “They may seem intimidated, but when you come to them from your level, they’re more likely to relate and feel comfortable seeking out the help that they need.”

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Students at the event took advantage of the time they were able to spend with the dogs – some even made repeat visits.

“This is like my 10th time coming here,” Jasmin Singh, freshman biology major, said. “I come so much. I have a favorite dog, Beau. I had an orgo midterm. This was very needed. I feel really relieved, and I can go back to my day as normal functioning human being.”

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