As UMN finals week casts its ominous shadow over campus, the PAWS De-Stress Program is determined to win over the hearts and minds of depressed college students with their infectiously cute dogs. But their competition is fierce, as they must fight against both their clients’ own self-destructive tendencies and the local bars that encourage said tendencies.
“It’s a tale as old as time,” said Tessa Grund, a PAWS employee. “Ever since the program’s been set up here at the U of MN, we’ve had to drag students away from their flasks and beer cans, often literally, to work through their stress in a healthy way.”
Local bar owners say that they aren’t necessarily competing with PAWS intentionally. Simply that they aren’t stopping U students from getting smashed and avoiding the consequences of their procrastination and poor study habits.
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“We aren’t letting them drink themselves to the grave,” said Bruce Almond, a bartender at Blarney’s Pub. “But we do see a huge influx of U students, especially CSE kids, crying and drinking up to and during finals week. That’s just a fact. If they’d rather pet dogs, we’re super cool with it, but good luck getting them out of here.”
According to a cursory glance inside any given Dinkytown bar, this wave of self-medicating Carlson and CSE kids is only just coming into full swing. It’s predicted to only get worse as finals studying breaks down over the next week.
Despite the uphill battle they face, PAWS is holding their own. “We’ve had over two hundred visitors and thirty-two on-site mental breakdowns in just the past week,” said Grund with a smile. “That’s how we know we’re doing our jobs.”
Some students are torn between love for cute animals and love for alcohol. And in their sleep-deprived, zombie-like state, they can’t usually remember that they can pretty reliably fulfill both their need for dogs and their developing alcoholic tendencies. These students are the primary targets for PAWS in the upcoming week.
“Look, finals are going to fuck you up either way,” said Grund. “We just want students to get fucked up the right way and pet our dogs to try to forget, instead of drinking enough to actually forget. You’re procrastinating with either option, but one has you petting dogs, man. C’mon.”
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