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Local students and animals benefit from Petland visits

BY LAUREN COFFEY | MARCH 06, 2013 5:00 AM

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Despite recent thefts at the Iowa City Petland, officials at the store say the benefits of offering an open atmosphere for people to come in and interact with animals outweighs any risks.

Petland, 1851 Lower Muscatine Road, receives 30 to 40 visits each day from local college students who play with animals, and that number is expected to increase as the winter months come to a close.

Petland officials say the heavy traffic of students does not concern them, despite a few incidents at the store recently. One theft case involves a former Petland employee, 21-year-old Robert Schick. He was charged Feb. 27 with allegedly stealing $1,600 worth of merchandise.

A second recent theft involved a local woman, 46-year-old Diane Chance, who was charged Feb. 28 with allegedly stealing a miniature poodle and a dachshund from Petland. The dogs were valued at $1,799.99 and $1,499.99, respectively.

“That was a shock,” said Rogan Barkhoff, a kennel manager at Petland. “It literally happened in just a few minutes. We just wanted to get the puppy back. It was one of those strange coincidences. We have great security, which is why we found the puppy so quickly. We’re more aware now. It’s just one of these things that just happens.”

Although most of the students spend only around an hour with the animals, Petland officials say those minutes are very beneficial for the pets.

“It definitely helps with the socialization of the dogs and the animals in general,” said Jessie Dubolde, the manager at Petland in Iowa City. “They aren’t as nervous, and it helps them get used to having people around.”

In addition to helping animals, socializing with the pets is also beneficial to students, giving them what Dubolde calls “puppy therapy.”

Barkhoff, a former University of Iowa student, agrees with Dubolde and said she thinks the puppies relieve college students’ stress.

“As a college student in a small apartment, and with little time, I would come here all the time with my boyfriend,” Barkhoff said. “After a hard test or a long day, it’s nice to come to something that will always adore you and snuggle up with you. It’s definitely a stress-reliever.”

The UI Hospitals and Clinics offer its own pet program called Furry Friends. It is one of the only programs in the country that allows patients to bring in their own pets from home for visiting hours. The program is celebrating its 10th year at the hospital.

“Obviously, it’s a win-win program for the staff, and it’s designed for the patients to have a positive response,” said Linda Monroe, a UIHC senior activity therapist. “There’s research to back it up that it’s beneficial for patient interactions. It helps the patient relax, and sometime the dogs even fall asleep, too.”

Kathleen Staley, the assistant director for outreach at University Counseling Service, said stress is one of the largest issues she sees with college students, and playing with animals is one of the ways to help the students relax.

“Playing with animals can help relieve stress, absolutely,” Staley said. “Animals can help calm us down. Petting an animal is very common to do and calming.”

Barkhoff said the number of student visitors at Petland has risen in the past five months she has worked at Petland. She believes it will continue to rise with the spring temperatures.

Kirkwood junior Selma Pepic spent some time with animals at Petland Tuesday evening. She said she visits Petland a few times each month to relax.

“It relieves stress. I was stressed earlier about school,” Pepic said as she pet a rabbit in her arms. “They’re just so adorable, and [playing with the animals] just helps you feel the love.”


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