Puppy love to the rescue of stressed ANU students


When I was a little girl, I used to visit my aunties in Lima, Peru, and their dog, “Principe” (Prince), a German Shepherd who was always behind the gate. One day I got too close to him and he bit my hand. After that, every time I heard a dog barking or saw a dog, my heart would pump so hard that I could hear it. “Bit your tongue!” someone told me, dogs will not be able to smell you are nervous.

Twenty years later, I moved to a little house in Nairobi, Kenya. It was the perfect abode for me, surrounded by gardens and protected by… four very naughty German Shepherds. I was scared at the beginning, they used to jump on me every morning with their big dirty paws. The oldest of the four, Soja, used to sleep at my door at night. She was a guard dog for the house and she adopted me. I spent so many hours reading out loud Paulo Coelho’s books to her and she would just lie down and listen. She would be there at my door when I was sad or felt lonely, she just looked at me, quietly. I knew I could count on her.

A couple of years later I met my husband Pablo in Lima, an amazing down to earth person and a dog trainer. We moved to Canberra so I can study a PhD at the Crawford School at the ANU. While in Kenya, Soja helped me dealing with my fear of dogs. In Canberra, my husband has taught me to relax, to stay calm, to trust dogs and feel confident with them for the first time in my life. After a couple of months I was not worried any more about dogs jumping or misbehaving, I really overcame my fears and became his dog training apprentice.

I have been blessed with the opportunity of being surrounded by dogs for the last three and a half years. Many weekends of training, minding dogs, walking them up and down Mount Majura, taking pictures of them, howling with them at times. So much fun!

PhD life went on, hundreds of papers, tens of books, many hours in front of a screen, many ups and downs and frustrations as any other PhD student would have with teaching, marking, the thesis chapters, panel meetings, presentations,field work trips…sigh…and then at home, when I came back, there was only one thing that matter: the ball.

Dogs have given me so much peace, made me active, up for the morning walk, the afternoon walk, the evening walk. Dogs look at me and ask for the ball, the ball, and the ball please! Carpe diem, that’s it. Rocco, a mongrel like me, is the smartest one; he would even walk on walls for the ball, the precious ball. He has inspired me to be strong and stubborn as I get through the last months of my PhD. I wonder what would have happened to me if I didn’t have dogs around during my PhD.

Having dogs around, even if not daily, has been the best way to relax and be in the present throughout my PhD years. Different universities across the developed recognise the calming power of dogs by implementing puppy rooms during exam periods: University of Aberdeen and Saint Andrews in Scotland, Dalhousie, Alberta and Trinity Western in Canada, various US universities. You can even rent a pet at Harvard and Yale for some ‘time alone’. Last year, the Australian National University had a puppy visit from the Australian Capital Territory Rescue and Foster Inc. I was pleased. No doubts playing with a dog is my best stress remedy. What is yours?

PS: My husband Pablo and I would be happy to answer any questions about dogs.
Contact us through “Pablo’s Dogs – Dog Training Canberra” on Facebook.

Photo by Fuzzy Beast Studio

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