Pet-A-Pet Day: The Good, The Bad, and The Furry

Kelly Coons ’22

Assistant Opinions Editor

In the dark, stressful times of finals season, there was a light. We call that light “Pet-A-Pet Day.” Pet-A-Pet Day is a beacon of hope amidst a shore of dread. Will we pass that test? How will we finish that paper? Are we going to get that summer job? For that precious hour, though, our minds can be free of such pressure, in favor of far more pressing questions like, “Which of these animals is the cutest?” Is Pet-A-Pet Day truly all puppies and kittens, though? I think that question is worth pursuing.

For people who like animals, it is true that petting pets is good for stress, and the same goes for the pet. Dog trainer Mikkel Becker, in an article for VetStreet, explains that petting releases oxytocin, a hormone that produces feelings of bonding and connection, in both the human and the animal. Steven Feldman, of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, calling this the “pet effect,” details the multitude of ways that bonding with an animal benefits human mental health. The physical interaction with another, living creature that is completely non-judgemental can relieve stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms. Pets can be a catalyst for human connection, too, acting as an impetus for social connection. This can be seen at Smith’s Pet-A-Pet Day when people are happily talking about the animals!

However, I believe that Smith’s Pet-A-Pet Day is not as helpful as it could be. First of all, the crowds are not conducive to people with anxiety. If people can not access the animals, then they can not get the help that that connection provides. We can not control how many people show up for an event, but we can control how spread out those people are. I propose more than one “Pet-A-Pet” location. That way, even if the number of people who attend stays the same, the concentration of people at each location will be decreased. This helps people who are far away from the Schacht Center as well: those who may have been dissuaded from or flat-out unable to make the trip across campus.

In our examination of Pet-A-Pet Day, we also need to take the well-being of our furry friends into account, too. While the animals that are brought to Pet-A-Pet Day enjoy human affection, the attention can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, in both of the Pet-A-Pet Days I have attended, I have witnessed people swarming the animals. Luckily, I have not seen such swarming escalate to the point that the animal felt threatened enough to lash out, but it should never get to that point. We have a responsibility to make our fuzzy guests feel welcome. That means giving them space. While I don’t think it should be the owners’ responsibility to police us, especially since we do outnumber them, I think some reminders are needed. Maybe they can be part of the advertising of the program, or there can be signs on-site. I don’t think people mean to scare the animals. Especially if someone does not have a pet, they might not realize the signs that a pet does not feel comfortable.

Lastly, there is the problem of food. The pets enjoy looking for crumbs, but I think the topic of food at Pet-A-Pet Day needs to be re-visited. Since Pet-A-Pet Day happens at the same time as lunch, and there are crowds around each of the animals, for some students, it can come down to a choice between petting a pet and eating lunch. That isn’t healthy. Thus, as much as I love the apple cider donuts, something that can be a lunch, like sandwiches, should be provided. The apple cider donuts can still be there, but apple cider donuts are not lunch. Eat lunch. And pet pets. And wash your hands.

Pet-A-Pet Day is a new addition to the line-up of Smith traditions. It was borne of one dog’s love for pets, but we, the students, can show our love for the animals in our community by helping make Pet-A-Pet Day better.