Canines Going To The Head Of The Class At USF Law School

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USF Therapy dog

One of the therapy dogs, Sophia Loren, in the USF School of Law Dorraine Zief Law Library. (Shawn Calhoun)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – What’s furry, has four legs, a tail, and an uncanny ability to ease the pressure cooker-like atmosphere of law school? The therapy dogs roaming the halls of University of San Francisco’s Law School.

Lawyers-in-training already know that the legal profession can be a dog-eat-dog world, and the stress is just as great during law school exams. But, thanks to a new person-to-pet program at USF, those stressed-out students are more likely to be blissed-out students in these spring days leading up to challenging tests.

USF students can thank Law Library Director Ron Wheeler for greasing the wheels on the program. He first heard about the concept from a law school on the East Coast.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

“To sort of break the stereotypes about librarians shushing people and also to let the students know that the library is not sort of a downer place but also a fun, interesting place to come and interact,” he explained why he was open to having canines in his facility.

“I’ve seen a lot more smiles and a lot more laughter here,” he proudly declared of the recent change in tone ahead of finals. “That’s for sure.”

Perhaps the only downside to the program, which is being run with the help of the SPCA, is that there are only 5 therapy dogs – meaning a lengthy wait list exists.

“They sent out an e-mail saying they had stress-relieving dogs and I could always use a stress reliever, so I took advantage,” explained first year law student Jackie Falk, who will enjoy a session with a therapy dog next week.

She already felt the stress melt away when she played with a Weimaraner mix this week.

“This is Sophia Loren. She’s about, between 4 and 5 years old. She’s a rescue from the SPCA,” explained the SPCA’s Carol Sing. “She does tricks for people, like high five, we can get her to do a roll over.”

“She’s relaxed and she’s fun and she’s cute and I don’t know how I would describe the physical reaction but, just, soothing,” Falk said of Sophia Loren after spending ten minutes with her. “She is relieving my stress and giving me a reason to smile.”

That came as little surprise to Sing, who likes to sing the praises of therapy dogs.

“It helps to reduce your stress levels, your blood pressure, things, you know, and yeah, it’s just kind of fun. It’s fun to pet a dog.”

It’s something that puts a smile on Wheeler’s face in the library, too.

“The students’ minds get far away from exams or grade pressure and all that and when I see the smiles I feel like we’re doing something positive for the students.”

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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