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OTC Students Relieve Midterm Stress with Canine Play Time

It's midterm exam time for students at Ozarks Technical Community College. To alleviate some of the pressure of mid-term exams, Pet Therapy of the Ozarks brought several animals to the OTC Springfield campus for a “stress relief" station. That's a non-profit organization that offers emotional therapy and stress relief for people in nursing homes, hospitals, prisons and, of course, schools. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has more.


[Sound: students, people mingling on campus]

Nelson Knapp and his standard white poodle, Pippin, meander down the sidewalk of the student commons area of OTC. As they sit down at a table close to the main parking lot, Annie Nguyen, a student, walks up and asks for a photo of the well-groomed, fluffy canine.

NAT: interaction between student and Knapp:

Annie: Do you mind if I take a picture of the dog?

Nelson: No, sure. His name is Pippin.

Annie: Pippin? I just thought it was so cute and fluffy.

Nelson: Yep, Pippin

Annie: What does he do?

Nelson: Well, he just kind of stands here. And you can love on him and scratch his head and pet him. Like all poodles, he has hair, he doesn’t have fur so he won’t get all over your black pants, so you don’t have to worry about him shedding.


Nguyen waits patiently as Pippin expertly poses for his photo op. She's working on her associates degree, and she's very stressed.

Pippin, the poodle, was joined by five other dogs and their owners for the event. Students like Nguyen had the opportunity to hang out with the dogs during their breaks at school. Again, Nelson Knapp.

“Our organization, Pet Therapy of the Ozarks, has mainly dogs. We’ve got about 80 dogs, and dogs from a research standpoint do a lot to relieve stress.”

Knapp says there are many ways people can relieve stress, but he thinks interaction with animals is a special and somewhat different form of therapy that people without pets aren’t used to.

“One of my daughters is into Ashtanga yoga, but that’s pretty much internal, by yourself, if you will--whereas, the dog I think is more external, obviously, and it’s a projection. You can get a response from the dog—I kind of like the dog interaction. The dogs are very unconditional, loving animals."

It’s the joyful, interactive response from the dog that Knapp says subconsciously brings that joy. He says it’s a feeling of comfort for others. Knapp says his favorite part about the day has been when the students initially notice his dog and come running up to them.

“It’s fun to watch their faces. When they see the dogs they kind of brighten up. They come up and they pet on them and they love them and they talk about what their dogs are like because obviously they can’t have them at school.”

Pippin, expertly trained to stay quiet and calm, even did a few tricks for his audience, and showed that he can respond to Spanish commands.

[Sound:  Pippin doing tricks]

Knapp and Pippin make seven visits to different places each month. Knapp says they regularly stop by a local daycare and CoxHealth’s Oncology Floor. Knapp and his dog have been making their rounds ever since he retired four years ago.   

Knapp says anyone can become a volunteer. For more information on how to reach Pet Therapy of the Ozarks, you can visit

For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.