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(News-Press.com) - A chorus of "awwws" and "ohhhs" could be heard at the Cohen Center on the FGCU campus Thursday as a pack of puppies were put into play to help students de-stress before finals start next week.

The first "Puppy Palooza" was a team effort between Campus Recreation, Prevention and Wellness and the Gulf Coast Humane Society to help FGCU students calm down before next week's exams.

Priya Thomas, director of Prevention and Wellness, said the puppy visit was a "win-win" situation for students and puppies.

"It seems to be a great success," she said. "We hope to do it again."

Twice this week tents sprang up on the center green space and students could spend five minutes holding, cuddling, playing or just petting a pup.

"People told us that they just couldn't wait for the puppies," Thomas said. "We had about 460 people on Monday, and the line was even bigger today."

Even university staffers got into the act, she said. "We all have stress."

She said that the Prevention and Wellness department uses events like this as outreach to help students deal with issues such as stress.

"We know we have to be creative," she said. "With the approach we use the students are pretty receptive. The idea of connection and playing with something youthful and carefree just makes you smile."

Puppies benefit, too

Some of the dogs were up for adoption, and several people expressed interest, Courtney Piggott, special events manager for Gulf Coast Humane Society, said.

"This is also a good stress reliever for the puppies," Piggott said. "They get to socialize, and it is good for them to be handled."

She said some of the puppies will be adopted to homes with children. Being handled by all the FGCU students gives them a chance to get used to the attention.

Though this was the first time the Puppy Palooza had been at FGCU, Karen Fordiani, director of humane society volunteer services, said the young canines have been taken to other area educational venues.

"We do take puppies out to local schools and day camps," she said.

"This event has been well-received," Piggott said. "Hopefully they will bring it back next quarter."

The puppies ranged from Labrador mixes to terrier mixes.

"It absolutely makes me happy," said Courtney Richards, a freshman from Fort Lauderdale. "Back home I have a coonhound, Tracer, and I miss her."

Some of the pups were taking the handling in stride. Some laid-back to the point of snoozing while being held.

That was the case for Buddy, a black Labrador mix.

"I feel a whole lot happier," said Sarah Turek, 21, a junior from St. Petersburg who was holding the sacked-out Lab. "Now that I have a puppy, I'm not worried about finals."

Helping conduct the Puppy Palooza was Pause for Paws, a student club at FGCU.

Jennifer Levin, 20, a junior and president of the club, said the event did what it set out to do.

After having her photo in FGCU's Eagle News, Levin said she was being pointed out around campus as the "puppy girl."

"I feel like I have the best volunteer job," she said. "I get to hand out puppies and watch the stress leave people."

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