FARMINGTON —  Seven cute and fuzzy golden retriever puppies were a big hit with the nearly 500 students and staff who came to de-stress at a Puppy Party held Wednesday at the University of Maine at Farmington.

For a few minutes students were able to forget the essays due and the finals planned for next week as they held, played with or simply watched the puppies.

The stress began to melt away as students took turns sitting in one of seven circles on the floor of The Landing in the Student Center. One puppy per circle calmly made his or her way from student to student.

“It makes me happy,” said Ripley Biggs, a freshman from Saco. “It is a great break. I can forget about my essays.”

Some students just sat there watching the puppies and said how much they missed their own dogs.

“They are so cute,” Meadhbh Carroll, a freshman from New Jersey, said. Carroll said she had not been home yet and she couldn’t wait to see her own puppy over the holiday break.

When Kelly Bean, the puppies’ owner, was a student in Rehabilitation Services at UMF, she wanted something like this to happen.

When her emotional support therapy dog, Freyja, had seven puppies about seven and a half weeks ago, she mentioned it to a friend who suggested she talk with the professor of an animal therapy course at UMF.

Staff at the Health Center were contacted and a Puppy Party was planned to help relieve a little stress before finals.

“Puppies are such a stress reliever,” she said.

Bean, now of Old Town and formerly of Canton, graduated in 2015 and is now working with foster children as a case worker. She has found good homes for all seven who will be Christmas puppies, she said.

Each puppy sported a Christmas collar for the party. They basked in the attention and were benefiting from the socialization, she said. Bean has worked with the puppies to help them with those skills.

One puppy tested well and will receive training to become a therapy dog, she said. He responded well to tests on things such as attentiveness and response to loud noises.

A few small dogs joined the party to provide even more “dog time.” The party was held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Within the first half hour, 150 students had signed in with a waiting line going out the door. By noon, the number had doubled to 300.

“The response has been very positive,” said Lisa Lisius, RN, and Step UP! nurse manager at the campus Health Center. “Students needed it. Staff came, too. We all needed it.”

Staff from the Health Center’s Step UP! program helped plan the party, said Katia Kordek, a sophomore and Health Center employee.

Step UP! provides presentations around campus on how to respond to acts of bullying and assault, she said.

“Step UP! trains students in bystander intervention in order to empower students to help prevent problem situations when they see them,” according to the UMF website.

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Jasmine Athamni and Emily Murphy enjoy a pair of puppies at the University of Maine at Farmington Puppy Party on Wednesday afternoon. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

A tired puppy receives almost more attention than it can handle at a Puppy Party at the University of Maine at Farmington on Wednesday afternoon. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Sean Zubrod de-stesses with a puppy at a Puppy Party at the University of Maine at Farmington on Wednesday afternoon. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

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