We have trained therapy dogs.
The Yale Law School Library is embarking on a novel approach for dealing with student stress : starting next week, students will not only be able to go to the library to check out the books they need to write their term papers, but now they will also be able to “check out” 30 minute visits from the school’s new Therapy Dog, Monty a border terrier mix belonging to librarian Julian Aiken.
While you won’t find Monty (full name “General Montgomery“) squirreled away in the “Reference” section working on his thesis, as a trained therapy dog, he has gone through an extensive set of tests and exercises designed to “ensure that a dog can handle sudden loud or strange noises; can walk on assorted unfamiliar surfaces comfortably; are not frightened by people with canes, wheelchairs, or unusual styles of walking or moving; get along well with children and with the elderly; and so on.” A well-trained therapy dog will be comfortable being pet by an ever-changing cast of people in a variety of settings and will help a person feel calmer in its presence. As stated in Wikipedia, “a therapy dog’s primary job is to allow unfamiliar people to make physical contact with it and to enjoy that contact.” That might sound like a simple task, but you’d be surprised at how much goes into training therapy dogs! A video I found on YouTube gives a good overview of just how much training the average therapy dog needs.
Currently, Monty is scheduled to be on-site for only a three-day test run to see how students react to the program. One student, 26 year old Sebastian Swett, signed up for one of the 30 minute visits from Monty had doubts about how much an effect one visit from a therapy dog might have on the stress of attending law school, saying, “I don’t think its going to solve anybody’s anxiety problems, but it’s certainly nice to play with a dog for half an hour.” However, according to the Journal of Gerontology, in a study involving the elderly and feelings of loneliness, “Researchers found even one 30-minute long session of animal-assisted therapy reduced loneliness to a statistically significant degree.”
I can only imagine that the effect trained therapy dogs would have on reducing the stress of an overworked, exhausted, and emotionally drained law student would be similar. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how much stress Monty the therapy dog can alleviate for study-wrecked minds of the students of Yale during the upcoming trial program to get any real idea of how useful therapy dogs will be in this unique context so until then, the verdict is out!