By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Undergrads at Fordham College at Lincoln Center got some stress relief in a furry package Wednesday night, when several trained "pet therapy" dogs — and one rabbit — visited students.
Close to 200 students lined up to take 15-minute "cuddle breaks" with the animals, who gamely soaked up the attention and doled out unconditional love in return.
The event started last year at the suggestion of a resident assistant who was looking for new ways to soothe stressed and homesick students, said Deborah Green of Bideawee, a nonprofit animal adoption shelter and veterinary clinic that also trains animals to be pet therapists.
"The students are all just completely stressed out from late nights, cracking the books, turning in papers, but look at them now, they're all laughing," Green said, gesturing to groups of students petting therapy dogs. Fordham students recently finished mid-term exams.
"An animal doesn't care if you aced your exam, it's just there for you," Green said.
Many of the dogs at Wednesday's event have regular therapy gigs visiting hospitals, facilities for the blind, senior centers and other places where people might need a boost.
Small groups of students got to spend 15 minutes with the animals, then left to make way for the next round.
An English angora rabbit named Stuart received a steady stream of admirers in one corner. He was a hit with girls and with curious dogs who couldn't resist sniffing his silky fur.
Freshman Asa De Sal, 18, of Los Angeles, California, said he attended the event in part because he misses his dog at home, a dachsund named Roxy. When it was his turn for some four-legged love, De Sal immediately connected with Prince, a furry black Pomeranian who looked like a tiny cloud with paws.
De Sal cooed and kneeled in front of Prince, dubbing him "My little cocoa bean" and petting him.
Afterward, De Sal said the experience did the trick. "It was actually pretty relaxing, it was pretty carefree," De Sal said.