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VIDEO: Dogs storm seniors' home for Valentine's Day

When it comes to dishing out affection, these dogs are the pros.

They are certified members of a special team of K9s at UBCO.

Today, residents of a Kelowna retirement home got to experience their talents first-hand.

"Dogs are very good at connecting with people," said Freya Green. "We call them social catalysts. So they're very good at connecting with people, but also connecting people with each other."

For residents of Missionwood Retirement Resort, it was a special kind of Valentine's Day, thanks to the B.A.R.K. program at UBCO.

It stands for Bringing Academic Retention through K9s, and it's been growing on the campus for 11 years.

Most people might have a feeling that interacting with a dog can boost your spirits, but there's a science to back that up.

"There is," said Green. "There is a growing field we call 'human-animal interaction', and we're really part of that at UBC."

Researchers have discovered that to maximize the benefit of spending time with dogs, just being close isn't enough, you have to get in there and give them a good petting.

"We did a study to compare," said Green. "There are significant benefits to your well-being by actually petting the dog."

The event at Missionwood is the first time the dogs have made a visit like this for a few years because of the pandemic.

<who> Photo Credit: NowMedia

The moment the dogs entered Missionwood, the smiles lit up the room.

"There is something special about dogs," she said. "They're non-judgmental, they're calm and they just really want to be with humans all the time."

The program at UBCO was unleashed by Dr. John-Tyler Binfet and a single dog and his dog, Francis.

"They would go to Starbucks on campus and would be inundated by students saying things like 'I miss my mom and dad, but, I miss my dog more'," she explained.

A pilot study was created in 2013 with 12 dogs and has grown to include 61 furry volunteers.

<who>Photo credit: NowMedia </who>

"We look at stress, homesickness and loneliness," said Green.

There are regular events on Friday nights at UBCO, and satellite programs where dogs will be stationed in highly trafficked areas.

"So students can just stop by for a quick fix between exams," she said.

For seniors, who sometimes get lonely, dogs also offer a great boost.

Well over a dozen dogs entertained residents of Missionwood, so everyone had a chance to enjoy it.



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