UNC students get a dose of puppy love as they struggle with a painful week on campus

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UNC-Chapel Hill students got a dose of puppy love on the lawn in front of Wilson Library on Wednesday in a much-needed break during what has been a tough week on campus as they’ve been grappling with recent student deaths.

Eyes Ears Nose and Paws, a local nonprofit organization, brought service dogs in training to campus for a few hours to offer “quiet, furry support” and help comfort students. The campus is dealing with recent student deaths, and Tuesday was declared “Wellness Day” by UNC leaders.

“It’s a thing that we can offer right now in a moment of need,” said Executive Director Maria Ikenberry. “It just felt like the right thing to do.”

The university canceled classes for Tuesday after a student died by suicide outside a dorm over the weekend, as reported to police. Tuesday was designated as a day to give students an opportunity to pause, grieve and process the “mental health crisis” on campus.

Hunter, a service dog sits up for a treat while spending time with students at UNC-Chapel Hill, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. Eyes Ears Nose and Paws, a local nonprofit organization, brought service dogs in training to campus for a few hours to offer quiet, furry support and help comfort students.
Hunter, a service dog sits up for a treat while spending time with students at UNC-Chapel Hill, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. Eyes Ears Nose and Paws, a local nonprofit organization, brought service dogs in training to campus for a few hours to offer quiet, furry support and help comfort students.

When there is trauma in the community, a lot of people need the opportunity to be with a creature that can just hold that space for them and be in a loving relationship without necessarily needing to talk, Ikenberry said.

And people respond to dogs, especially in moments of crisis, she said.

Students pet Leonard, a service dog in training, at UNC-Chapel Hill Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. Eyes Ears Nose and Paws, a local nonprofit organization, brought service dogs in training to campus for a few hours to offer “quiet, furry support” and help comfort students.
Students pet Leonard, a service dog in training, at UNC-Chapel Hill Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. Eyes Ears Nose and Paws, a local nonprofit organization, brought service dogs in training to campus for a few hours to offer “quiet, furry support” and help comfort students.

“Our hearts go out to the UNC community right now,” the group said on Facebook. “We can’t fix the pain, but one thing we can offer is puppy love!”

The dogs gave out snuggles and kisses while hanging out with students and employees between 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

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