Monday, December 26, 2016

Bryn Mawr College

“Maggie’s Back” is something I expect to hear when I visit an elementary school, but as I entered the library at Bryn Mawr College I was surprised (and pleased) to hear this. Libraries and dogs-my two favorite things, and as I entered the library and looked around at all the books I was in heaven but my focus was pulled away to the dogs and the students sitting on the floor (I did notice a cat as well). After parking my car and walking through the campus in search of the library I couldn’t help but notice the large stately buildings. The scurrying students brought me back to my youth. I felt the pull of the classrooms calling my name and a pang of jealousy as I observe the students moving about in groups of three and four. Do they realize how lucky they are? I think of the saying “youth is wasted on the young”. When I think back to my college days at the University of Maryland I do remember some key classes I enjoyed, but mostly I remember the feeling of “I can’t wait to finish and get out in the real world”. Now I would love to trade places with the college kids Maggie and I are visiting. As always I promised myself I wouldn’t ask the students what they are studying or how the semester is going. Just the fact that they show up to de-stress with the dogs (and 1 cat) is an indication of how they are doing. There are streams of students coming and going. Sometimes it slows to a trickle but in the hour that Maggie and I are stationed in the library it’s pretty steady. I did manage to glance up once and look around the library (It appears to be three stories tall, oh so many books to look at!) Many of the students inquire about Maggie and I ask if they have a dog at home. This usually opens the door to a conversation-what breed, how old, tell me something funny about your dog etc. I do hear bits of conversation between the students about their professors and their upcoming exams. I usually just sit there quietly and let them talk and pet Maggie. When I think about my visits there are usually one or two people that stand out during the hour. During this particular visit there were two students I kept thinking about long after we left. The first student arrived with a group of friends and sat with us right away. She jumped right in and started petting Maggie (of course Maggie really enjoyed this!). She turned to her friend and started talking about her classes, her schedule and her exams. Her stress level seemed rather high and the more she talked the stronger her hand motion seemed while she was petting Maggie. When her group of friends left she remained. Another group of students took their place and this student continued the conversation without even taking a breath in between.(although at this point I realized it was one sided) and I don’t even believe she realized the switch had occurred. This happened a couple of times. After about twenty minutes she did get up and move on. On a totally opposite extreme another student came by and sat petting Maggie for most of the session. She didn’t really talk except to answer a few questions I asked her. I found out her family has two dogs and she can’t wait to go home and see them. I watched her watching the other students coming and going but she stayed in the same spot the whole time. At one point Maggie put the head on her lap. I pointed this out to her and managed to get a smile out of her. I felt her stress (and sadness) and was so happy that Maggie and I could be there for her. Although I have no idea what is really going on in her life my hope is that our therapy session was able to give her a little reprieve. I always find it fascinating that people (students) exhibit their stress in different manners. The first student I observed couldn’t stop talking and didn’t even care who she was talking to. The second student didn’t even want to talk. I go back to my life and these students continue theirs. Do they think about us? From our initial entrance to the words “Maggie’s back” I can only assume a few of them do!

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