On Monday, Dec. 4, groups of stressed-out ETSU students gathered in the commons area of the Charles C. Sherrod Library to take their minds off due dates and looming final exams to be subject to the charms of Allie Mae, a therapy pig from Healing Paws. Healing Paws is an organization that is comprised purely of volunteers and their pets. Their mission: pet-based therapy.

Although animal-assisted therapy has been subconsciously used by pet-owners since the beginning of time, pet therapy has only been formally recognized for its use in medicine and psychotherapy since the early 1980s. Pet therapy assists clients with every-day social and emotional functioning and is currently used in a range of setting from hospitals and nursing homes to prisons and yes, colleges.

During her short visit at ETSU, Allie Mae definitely mesmerized her crowd. The star of the show had students gathered around her, quietly sitting Buddha style, almost as if in a meditation circle.

“The goal is to enhance the lives of clients through interaction with our animals,” said Bev Haag of Healing Paws. “Allie Mae is no stranger to our program and has visited various college campuses before. It’s amazing to see how students and even faculty are drawn to her.”

For a couple of hours, lucky students were able to interact with Allie Mae and temporarily escape the burdens of their course loads. Many seemed extremely thrilled at the opportunity.

An ETSU sophomore said, “I think that a lot of people don’t realize how useful and important this type of therapy is – Stress comes in many forms. I have a therapy dog myself, and it’s almost incredible the difference he’s made.”

Allie Mae has definitely left her mark on ETSU, leaving many students anticipating her return, but until then, they went back to their study groups rejuvenated and ready to tackle their finals head on!