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Dogs and massages among stress-busters at school's D-Stress Day

Roxy, a golden retriever owned by Maria Prose of Novi, seems to be smiling along with dental hygiene student Olivia Zabel during their encounter at the December D-Stress Day event.

Ann Arbor, Mich., Dec. 9, 2016 -– School of Dentistry students on Thursday took a break from the rigors of studying for finals week to receive stress reduction therapy from a group of hairy experts named Otis,  Roxy, Vedder, Raven and Ruby.

It was a very therapeutic intervention, the students reported.

Meanwhile, Otis, Roxy, Vedder, Raven and Ruby (along with four of their therapist colleagues who refused to give their names) seemed genuinely pleased to help – if they weren’t napping during the session.

It was a visit to the school by nine dogs and their human handlers from the local chapter of Therapaws of Michigan.  The gentle, friendly dogs have been trained to interact with people in settings such as schools, nursing homes, hospitals and, on Thursday, the School of Dentistry.

The panting participants from Therapaws were one part of December D-Stress Day, organized by the school’s Academic Affairs Community Engagement Group for students, staff and faculty. In addition to petting the pooches, participants were invited to attend a noon discussion with Dr. Amanda Childress from the Nutritional Healing Center of Ann Arbor on the topic “How to Manage Stress and Anxiety Naturally to Help Your Body Cope.”  Dr. Pamela Harnick of the school’s counseling office provided some stress-busting art activities – a Play-Doh tooth and Block M were among the artistic creations.  And then there were the massages offered from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. by students from Irene’s Myomassology Institute; those were so popular that not everyone who wanted one made it through by closing time.

The dogs were the stars of the show, based on the steady stream of students and staff who came through the Student Forum to pet and shake hands, er, paws, with the canine visitors.  Vedder, a midnight black English lab, treated students and staff like old friends, offering unsolicited facial kisses and slurps one minute, and later cozying up to rest his weary head on the knee of a student sitting next to him.  Vedder, named after Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder, is the “granddog” of Judy Allen – i.e. it’s her son’s dog.  She said she loves taking him around to various Therapaw events because of the incredible bond that dogs have with people.

Even when one of the parties is asleep, apparently.  Jessie Schuh’s English bulldog, Otis, spent much of his time with his chin on the floor, one eye partly open and other fluttering shut in a sort of perpetual nap.  It didn’t matter to students, who caressed the folds on his forehead, rubbed his ears and scratched his thick back, the latter an obvious preference that on occasion prompted him to stand up and move into a better backrub position.

Kristin Schemine (D1) slowly made her way around the circle of dogs, spending time with several, and explaining to one of the dog owners that her family couldn’t have a dog because her dad is allergic to them.  “I’ve always loved dogs – I’ve always wanted one,” she said.  “It’s so relaxing to have them around.”

Third-year dental student Adam Smigiel spent some time with Maria Prose’s golden retriever Roxy because he misses his dog, Libby, who stays most of the time with his parents in Saginaw. Nearby, Jayne Kessel (D1) had the same reason for giving a rubdown to Raven, Janet Keller’s 7-year-old black Labrador retriever that lay peacefully on the floor soaking up the attention.  Raven was a familiar dog for Kessel because back home near Grand Rapids she has the same breed of dog but in different colors – a yellow lab named Indy and a chocolate lab named Rubicon. She said she’s looking forward to seeing them in about a week after finals are over. Was the stress reduction working? “Oh, yeah, it’s much needed,” Kessel said, giving a final pat to Vedder before grabbing her backpack and heading off to hit the books.


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at:

Sharon Grayden, Communications Director, at (734) 615-2600,, or Lynn Monson, Writer, at (734) 615-1971.