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Park University using pet therapy sessions to soothe stressed students

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PARKVILLE, Mo. -- The great illustrator of "Peanuts" fame, Charles Schultz, once said, "Happiness is a warm puppy."

School leaders at one local university hope that's true, enlisting the aid of pet therapy to soothe students.

The end of the school year represents the beginning of finals week for students at universities like Park University. At the McAfee Memorial Library on campus, library leaders are using pet therapy sessions to help students blow off some steam during this stressful time.

Julie Goodman is an instructor with MO KAN Pet Partners. Her standard poodle, Jordon, as well as the group's other dogs are licensed therapy animals. Goodman cites medical research, showing interaction with animals releases oxytocin, a hormone that makes people feel happy.

"Park University, like other universities, has realized the power of the healing touch of animals," Goodman said.

"They recognized this was a great opportunity to serve their student population by having us come and share our companion animals with them."

Park's library is bustling with activity this week, as students prepare for the rigors of final exams.

Ashley Morris had four exams in all, stacked in a row on Tuesday. The sophomore needed a break from all the studying.

"I was like, 'puppies everywhere'," Morris squealed. "It just made my blood pressure go down. I was excited."

"I would bet most people find that if you're working on a project and you're kind of stuck, stepping away from it for a little bit and taking a break can help you come back with renewed energy," Goodman added.

Dogs aren't the only therapy animals Goodman uses. She says from time to time, she also enlists the therapeutic help of housecats, horses and even a therapy rat.

MO KAN Pet Partners is a non-profit group that makes housecalls on scores of schools and businesses each year. Here's a link to their website.

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