Puppy rooms: Evidence the world is getting better

I know the world is getting better and better. My evidence: Puppy rooms.

My daughter brought this to my attention. It’s exam time at universities, and these institutions of higher learning have started providing therapy dogs to help students deal with stress.

Oh, how I wish such a thing were available when I was in university.

Of course, every good idea must have its detractors, and at least one columnist suggested that work is the ideal solution for extreme stress. Give that man a puppy!

This story reminded me of an entertaining TED talk video featuring Hans and Ola Rosling. These Swedish researchers discuss “How not be ignorant about the world”. At the TED conference, the Roslings asked audience members to answer with their predictions about three topics:

  • How did deaths per year from natural disaster change in the last century?
  • Women aged 30 spent how many years in school?
  • In the last 20 years the percentage of people living in extreme poverty . . . increased, stayed the same, or decreased?

The respondents tended to take a dim view of societal events.

In general, we believe everything is getting worse, we believe in a large, increasing gap between rich and poor, we believe countries need to be rich before they can improve social conditions, and we exaggerate the number of people harmed by things that scare us. But in every case the results were better than people expected and improved today over what happened in the past.

The Roslings suggest if we want to interpret the world, to “turn our intuition into strength,” we might follow their “rules of thumb” and assume that:

  • Most things improve
  • Most people are in the middle economically
  • Most countries improve their societal conditions and then benefit economically
  • The things that scare us (terrorist, shark attacks) harm few people.

My unscientific examination of the societal conditions in Canada suggest that this country is indeed a better place today than it was three decades ago. My evidence: Three decades ago my university had no puppy room; today my daughter’s university does.

I rest my case. 


TED Talk: Hans and Ola Rosling –



2 thoughts on “Puppy rooms: Evidence the world is getting better

  1. Phyllis Bohonis

    I couldn’t agree more. Every day is full of stress for my grandson who suffers brain trauma from numerous brain tumour surgeries. It’s not uncommon for days to end in tears. He will be moving into a new home shortly and the most comforting thing in his new place is a large Bouvier who has become his friend. Nothing can compare to the smile this dog-in-residence brings to my grandson’s face merely by bouncing into the room and just hanging out. He’s not a trained therapy dog but if no one tells him, I’m sure he’ll continue to act like one.


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