With final exams bearing down on them this month, nearly 1,000 students at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond turned out for “Paws for Stress” — a chance to pet and play with therapy dogs.  Pets were once considered a leisure interest, one best kept at home. But there’s a growing recognition that in addition to companionship, animals may offer humans a tangible health boost. VCU is just one of many colleges making therapy dogs available to students to help them cope with the stresses of finals, says Sandra Barker, a researcher at the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at VCU’s medical school and an organizer of the event.

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