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The Source

Sara Chambers gives law students a new leash on life during finals week

May 25, 2012

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    Tex as a puppy at the Legal Research Center.
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    Sara and Tex with big smiles after Tex passed the Delta Society test to become a therapy dog.
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If you have ever visited Switchboard Operator Sara Chambers at the front desk of the Legal Research Center, there’s a good chance you have also met Tex—Sara’s big, burly, and benign German Shepherd*.

Sara and Tex were recently featured online for developing a pet therapy program with the Delta Society, an international organization that certifies therapy dogs and trains handlers. The program gives law school students a way to relax during finals week.

In the words of law student Kim Upham, who participated in the program last fall, “Finals are a stressful time and everything that reduces stress is welcome. The Delta Society folks were great, and the dogs were very sweet. Who wouldn’t find that calming?”

The Source caught up with Sara Chambers to learn more about the program.

When did the pet therapy program begin at the law school?

This is the end of the second year of having therapy dog teams visit. We’ve provided them for both fall and spring finals, several times during each two-week finals period.

Where does the program take place (what building/classroom)? 

They currently meet in the SBA conference room, to the left of Classroom 1. It’s carpeted, we put the chairs in a circle, and we have flowers and candy in there—trying to make it a nice, relaxing atmosphere. And there’s a dog water bowl, of course!

In what ways do law students get to interact with the dogs? 

The law students interact with the dogs by just coming in and greeting and petting them. They also interact with the human part of the team! The ladies who bring their dogs live in the neighborhood. They both have children in our students’ general age range, so they’re really great at interacting with the students.

Why is this program important to the law school community?

This program is important to the law school community because finals are stressful. Many studies have now confirmed, with rock-solid scientific evidence, that the physical act of petting and interacting with a dog (and there are other species of therapy animals, i.e., llama, pony, horse, etc.) is relaxing—it actually lowers blood pressure and reduces anxiety and stress levels! What is better than the happy, smiling face of unconditional, quiet, calming adoration that a dog can provide just by virtue of your walking into the room? And where else do people find that in day-to-day life? Many students have had to leave a cherished family pet behind to go to school, so this is on par with mom sending a box of home-baked cookies to lift the spirits! But she can’t send the family pet, so we provide a taste of that!

The Delta Society website is a wealth of information about the benefits of animal assisted therapy and the human-animal bond.

 

* Editors note: Animals are not allowed in any campus building with the exception of guide or service dogs, animals used specifically in academic or research programs, or by special permission.