De-stress at the Pet Café!

“Missing your pet? Stressed about school? Come to the Interfaith Chapel to love-up some animals. Enjoy tea, coffee, and cookies while connecting with cuddly creatures.”

Each Wednesday, you’ll find a parade of people walking over to the quietest corner of campus. They arrive in droves, all with a singular purpose: to see the puppies.

The pet café, hosted each week at the Interfaith Chapel, was a huge success when it was launched last semester. I visited and sat down with the brains behind the operation, Anglican Chaplain Ruth Dantzer, to learn a little bit more about this amazing initiative.

Ruth wanted to create a program at Multifaith Services that would appeal to everyone, even those who do not consider themselves religious or spiritual in any way. She came up with the idea of a pet café because it combines two things that many students love – animals and free coffee! Everyone is welcome to attend, regardless of religious affiliation (or lack thereof).

The animals come from two organizations which alternate weeks – St. John’s Ambulance pet therapy program, and Pacific Animal Therapy Society (PATS). All the pet owners are volunteers, and their pets have all gone through the necessary training and certification to be service animals. And it’s not just dogs – Mandy the cat comes with PATS every other week, and there might even be a cockatoo coming in the future!

Lynn, who volunteers with her dog Daisy, says that it’s a great experience for both the students, and Daisy as well. “She has the right temperament, and just loves the attention!” Lynn explained.

The pet café averages an attendance of 130-150 people each week. When I asked Ruth why she thought so many people came every time, she explained that lots of people love animals and pets, but may not be able to have one right now. The café gives them a chance to have those puppy cuddles, without any pressure. Come with friends or come by yourself. Either way it’s a great way to connect with no pressure, because the animals are the focus. Plus, free coffee, tea, and cookies sweeten the deal!

In order to ensure that everyone who uses the chapel is respected, the meetings take place in the lobby of the Interfaith Chapel rather than the celebration hall. This also makes cleaning up afterwards easy, since the floors are not carpeted. Additionally, signs go up around the building alerting visitors to the possibility of allergens.

Ruth explained that the celebration hall can be a sacred space for many people for many different reasons, so she knew the animals wouldn’t be hosted there, “but everyone knew the program would be a hit, and that was the most important thing.”

I can tell you from experience it’s very welcoming to walk right in and see all those dogs there – you don’t need to worry about finding your way to the right room, or interrupting a meeting.

Ruth is a busy person, running five different programs for students on campus. She takes the time to run this program because she knows how important it is to de-stress.

Student Chloe started attending last semester, and told me “it’s a nice place to come and relax for a bit with no pressure, get out of the library, and hang out with my friends.”

Chloe enjoyed her time at the pet café so much that she is now a volunteer. Her favourite part of the program is the fun atmosphere – she says it’s a great place to meet people, because everyone is in a good mood!

If you want to come to the pet café, stop by on Wednesdays from 2:30 to 4:00 at the Interfaith Chapel (across Ring Road, right beside Finnerty Gardens) for some tea, coffee, cookies, and lots of puppy love too.

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3 Responses

  1. John H says:

    I wish there could be added days and times for the people who have classes on Wednesday afternoon!

  2. Amy says:

    I just wanted to mention that a phrase in the article here is slightly misleading. While this is an absolutely fabulous topic to write on, it should be noted that both the animals certified through the St. John’s Ambulance therapy dog program and PATS are not service dogs. While therapy dogs in BC may receive certification through a specific program that they volunteer with, they are not service animals. A service animal is an animal (either dog or miniature horse) that has been specifically task-trained to mitigate its handler’s disability. They are technically medical equipment, and have the same access rights to public spaces as their humans. They have also passed a rigorous public access government test and are certified through the provincial government too. Therapy animals/emotional support animals perform no such tasks except being there for comfort and support, and do not have access rights into public spaces except for the location they do their therapy work in. It’s important to make this distinction when talking about therapy dogs or service dogs, as their jobs are extremely different! A super well written article though, and an important weekly event at school!