“Serotonin refill: achieved,” a student once said to Cathy Emrick.
Emrick is the mother of a UNC student, and also the founder of a student support group. And as dozens of students pet dogs on the group’s frequent campus puppy strolls, Emrick hopes they gain a similar serotonin refill.
HAPPEE — Hugs and Pups Posse - Encouraging and Empowering — uplifts students throughout the week with friendly dogs and humans at a variety of campus locations.
When the group comes to campus, both “hugs and pups” can be found in “Blue’s Corner," located between Wilson Library and the Undergraduate Library. The name comes from Blue, a long-time serving dog in the program, who first picked out the spot.
First-year Reagan Gulledge said she ran into Blue during her second day on campus and it ended up bringing her a lot more than a friendly pet and a hug.
She said she was able to meet with the group almost every day last semester because of her schedule, and that she met one of her best friends when meeting with HAPPEE.
“We kept running into each other at HAPPEE, and we found a connection with that,” Gulledge said. “We would make it a routine to go see them together.”
The group was founded in October 2021 by Emrick, UNC parent Michelle Young and community member Noel-Beth Sipe when UNC was in the midst of a mental health crisis.
Emrick noticed that students' stress would dissipate when they knelt down to play with a dog at an event for parents on campus. So, she shared her idea to visit students on campus with puppies and offer hugs online.