Students flock to Pet Therapy Day for puppy love


It’s a common ailment among college students everywhere. They miss the companionship of the pets they left at home.

Pembroke’s Pet Therapy Day, now in its third year, offered some respite on October 28. By noon, nearly 60 students, faculty and staff had signed in, and more than 180 came by the end of the event.


The Robeson County Humane Society and UNCP’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) teamed up to bring dogs to campus. Students appeared as if attracted by a magnetic force, and it was a huge success.

“We had a good number of students come out this year,” said LynnDee Horne, CAPS assistant director and outreach coordinator. “Our final count was 181 students.

Some special guests also visited. A contingent of international students got what was their first exposure to dogs

“This was our 3rd year doing this, and most of the time, we only have it in the fall,” Horne said. “Because of the student feedback from this year, we have decided to do this is the spring semester as well. We are very excited.”

There was a lot of puppy love to go around, said Kayla Smith, director of the local Humane Society. “We brought six dogs today and just one puppy,” Smith said. “This is a unique event, and it’s great for the kids and dogs.”

Student comments were uniformly blissful:

  • “I want one,” said Rachel Raines.
  • “I miss my dogs. I have four at home. I grew up with dogs, cats, rabbits, horses…” said Morgan Mattern.
  • “I’d take her home, if I could,” Katrina Oxendine said.
  • “I love my dog. I have a retriever,” said Robert Sibley.
  • “Who doesn’t love dogs; this is the best part of my Monday, so far,” said Beverly Justice, a faculty member in the Athletic Training Program.

Pet Therapy Day has three goals, said Horne. “First, we want our students to enjoy themselves. Many have left pets back home and miss them. We hope this provides a small outlet for missing their furry friends.

“Second, we want to encourage volunteering. Our partner, the Robeson County Humane Society, is a great place for our students to volunteer. Giving back to our communities through volunteering is one way to boost our mental health.

From left: Taylor Gibson, Robert Sibley and Katina Oxendine

“And third, we want to provide a stress-reducing opportunity for our students. There have been numerous studies linking spending time with animals to reduced stress levels. Educational materials on how students can reduce their stress levels are available as well,” Horne said.

“Hopefully, we’ll get some volunteers,” Smith said. “We have had several long-term volunteers from UNCP.”

Jordan Farry, a senior, came for the first Pet Therapy Day three years ago and has been volunteering since then. “I just love them all,” she said. “I plan to be a zookeeper; I interned with the Riverbanks Zoo last summer, and they asked me to come back.”

Other students were considering having a pet. Alexis Locklear was shooting video for a WNCP-TV news story and enjoying the dogs. “If we didn’t have two dogs already, I’d get another one,” she said. “But if my mom said it was okay…”

Puppy love seemed to be working its magic on Pet Therapy Day at UNCP.