January 20, 2022

Canine comforter

‘Paws for Stress Relief’ aids SUNY students

Sarah Bullock/staff reporter

Chewbacca, a certified therapy dog, basks in the attention of SUNY Cortland students Patrick O’Brien, 19, left, Matthew Meenan, 19, Aidan Soha, 19, and Tessa Graine, 18. Volunteer Angela Earley looks on.

With his head in a student’s lap, and three others petting his sides, Chewbacca showed Tuesday he was an old hand at being the center of attention.

Chewbacca, a pitbull and mastiff mix, is a certified therapy dog, was the star at “Paws for Stress Relief”, a 14-year tradition to help students reduce their end-of-the-semester stress and anxiety.

This is Chewbacca’s third year at “Paws for Stress Relief,” said his human, Angela Earley.

Chewbacca also serves at St.Joseph’s Health, a hospital in Syracuse, as well as nursing homes, schools and sometimes at the Cortland Free Library.

Sophomore Grayson Lane, 21, brought his service dog, Juno, to the arts and crafts table he was running with sophomore Haley Yegidi. While he wasn’t supposed to, Lane let Juno receive pets, too.

“Some people have been petting him and getting to know him a little bit,” said Lane, of Lawrence, Kansas.

“I’m making my own button because it’s just so relaxing,” said Yegidis, 19, a sophomore studying to be a health educator.

Yegidis, from Poughkeepsie, said her semester was hard because of the workload. The transition from semester to semester, and sorting out financial aid was hard for Lane, who is also studying to be a health educator.

“This is my last semester in Cortland,” said Corrinne Smith, a senior who graduates this month with a bachelor’s degree in biology. “So moving on to a new chapter is scary because you always have something lined up and now you don’t.”

Smith, 21, of Plattsburgh, isn’t sure what she wants to do with her degree yet and is applying to graduate schools, as is fellow senior Kasi Johnson.

Finals and finances were on Johnson’s mind. “Funds are deteriorating,” said Johnson, 21, of Saratoga Springs.

Michaile Graham, 18, of Jamaica, said she had been afraid of failing chemistry.

“I’ve never been stressed about a test ever in my life other than this,” Graham said, celebrating passing her chemistry final. “It’s definitely not like high school Chemistry. I got an A+ in that class.”

“I had a final today,” Tessa Graine, an 18-year-old freshman studying psychology. “My last final is Friday, so I have three days to study and I feel like it’s not enough.”

But before the semester ended, Chewbacca laid his head in her lap and stared into her face. Even though there were three other students petting him, he only had eyes for her.