The Red & Black - Paws & Relax provides puppies for stressed out students during finals

Laurel Hiatt Apr 30, 2016 

Paws & Relax, a de-stress event hosted by The University of Georgia Libraries, will take place at five different locations on May 4 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dogs and puppies of all kinds, from Pomeranians to poodles, will make an appearance to relax students during finals week.

There will even be a guest appearance by Peaches, a baby goat who participants can “tell [their] troubles to” according to the online event page, and two cats described BY Nadine Cohen as “very hearty [and] relaxed.”

Cohen, who organized the event starting in 2013 as a UGA Libraries faculty member, experienced great turnout when the event initially began with 25 dogs and is pleased with the reception of the experience among students. Her love of animals echoes that of the students, particularly in regards to her 100-pound mutt back at home.

“It’s impossible not to like this,” Cohen said. “They especially love the goats.”

The idea originally came from a survey conducted by UGA Libraries to determine what might benefit the student population’s well-being. A request for therapy dogs was made and responded to with enthusiasm.

Maddie Swab, a junior studying social work from Acworth, remembers going to the first occurrence her freshman year.

“I was in the middle of finals; I was really stressed out,” Swab said. “And I pet a big gaggle of dogs. You feel so much less stressed out.”

Now that Swab is raising a puppy for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, she plans on bringing her poodle Scarlett to the event to help others relax, among a handful of other guide dogs in training.

“I want other people to pet my dog and feel good too, because I felt good,” Swab said. “

Paws & Relax is made possible by collaborations with the Guide Dog Foundation, the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control and Therapy Dogs International. This year’s event will also involve local animal shelters and the Athens Humane Society, which will bring about 40 dogs of all different shapes and sizes to campus.

Cohen is slightly intimidated by the idea of expanding the event, which has grown substantially in the few years since its inception. 

As the locations expand across campus and the number of furry animals continues to increase, the logistics of the event become harder to manage. Regardless, she is cognizant of the happiness Paws & Relax brings to campus and the implications of its success.

“It’s always nice to expand something that everybody likes,” Cohen said.

Cohen also has more personal reasons to maintain the newly formed tradition of Paws & Relax for the foreseeable future.

“If nothing else, it’s an excuse for me to have my dog on campus at work,” Cohen said.