A dog has been taken on as a new recruit at a university to help students with their mental health.
Bessie, a three-year-old Jack Russell, is taken on walks around the local parks, providing academics with a break from the pressure and stress of campus at Newcastle University.
Other universities offer therapy dogs for stressed students, and some have dog-walking schemes, but Newcastle University believes theirs is the only one that lets people take a dog out for an unsupervised stroll.
Bessie belongs to Sally Ingram, the university’s director of Student Health and Wellbeing, who said, “Research has shown that time spent with animals can alleviate worry, provide comfort and help people deal with feelings of isolation and loneliness – all issues that students can sometimes struggle with.
“Combining this with fresh air and physical exercise is a good recipe for positive physical and mental wellbeing.”
She said the dog-walking sessions have the lowest drop-out rate of any of the wellbeing services the department provides, as people do not want to let Bessie down by not turning up to walk her. Sessions last an hour and students are encouraged to pair up to walk her, so they get to chat while they take Bessie out, and explore Newcastle’s parks.
Friends Paige Coope, a philosophy student, and James Woods, who is taking a combined business, media and communication degree took Bessie, she said: “I would recommend this service to anyone who may be stressed with exams or for those who simply want the company of a great dog and have a spare hour.”