Dogs Make Ruff Days Better

Hannah Gunn '23, Science & Technology Editor

A new smiling (and fluffy) face welcomed St. Luke’s students and faculty to campus at the start of the school year and continues to do so every morning. To the delight of many, Dr. Carter’s dog Hefty is the newest member of our community. One student described Hefty’s impact on their morning, saying, “Hefty always makes my morning better!” Another said, “Hefty brings joy to my morning every day without fail!”

Hefty is constantly flocked by students and enthusiastically embraces the attention. A student expressed their thoughts on Hefty, saying, “Hefty is the perfect dog. He enjoys petting and lots of love which is nice to be welcomed to.” Though, aside from providing a daily warm welcome to students, Hefty is valuable to the community in other ways. 

It is scientifically proven that dogs benefit people’s mental health. For instance, playing with dogs raises levels of brain chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine that create positive feelings. Dogs also motivate people to become more active by providing a reason to go outside, get sun exposure, and get active, which improves mood, sleep, and mental health. 

Dogs reduce work-related stress in both high school and work environments. According to an NIH study, the presence of a dog in a classroom provides significant anti-stress effects on the body, and simply petting a dog lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones. One student addressed this, saying Hefty is “very funny and therapeutic.” Thus, having dogs in schools is beneficial to both students and faculty. 

Not only do dogs lessen stress, but they are known for being “man’s best friend.” Many high school students struggle with anxiety and depression, often leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Hefty helps remedy this problem by providing companionship and support, as described by a student who said he “raises your vibration!!! A smile to your face as you see [dogs], then the warmth of feeling them and their pure innocence and unconditional love. Best Feeling!”

Dogs also are helpful in school and workplace environments because they increase productivity when you work and provide a sense of togetherness in communities. An American Heart Association Study shows that when a dog joins a workspace, group members rank their teammates higher on trust, team cohesion, and camaraderie. Additionally, an NIH study shows that dogs have a “social catalyst effect,” which leads to “increased stimulation of social behavior.” These both can translate over to the high school social scene, where after covid, connection has never been more important. 

Seeing Hefty each morning parading the halls and welcoming us outside brightens the day of students and faculty. 92.2% of students surveyed said that they feel happier with dogs on campus, and many described how he makes their school day better. Though he makes us smile, he also is quite beneficial to our mental health. Thus, when the high school workload takes a hefty load on students and faculty’s mental health, the presence of dogs on campus makes everyone happier.