“When people touch fur animals, the bonding makes both parties release some ‘happy’ hormones,” Wong said.
Walk-in interactions with the therapy dog attracted nearly 200 participants from September to November last year, with 68 returning to the sessions, according to the Dean of Students’ Office at HKUST. The school had also hosted 18 private meetings upon students’ request since December last year.
Tang, who has been a regular participant since last summer, said: “I feel like I understand what he is thinking, his habits, likes and dislikes.” After joining several mingling sessions, students can attend a caring tutorial led by professional dog trainers. They learn how to look after dogs, including walking, feeding and playing with them before becoming Gohan’s regular carers. Final-year student Tommy Kwok Tze-fung decided to step up as a helper for the programme after joining it for three months to guide new participants in the dos and don’ts while interacting with Gohan.
“As a helper, I do not only play with Gohan but also take care of his feelings and reactions,” Kwok said.
In Hong Kong, only 5.7 per cent of households had dogs, according to a Census and Statistics Department survey conducted during March to June 2018, which meant that about 220,000 of these pets were being kept in the city.