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May 06, 2011

While most of her classmates hovered over books and laptops preparing for final exams in the Zief Law Library Thursday afternoon, Jackie Falk 1L sat on the floor of a private room in the library playing with Sophia Loren, a gentle pit bull/Weimaraner mix. Sophia did tricks—roll over, give a high five, take a bow—and Falk rewarded her with doggie treats and affectionate scratching under the ears.

Katy Yount 3L takes time out from studying for finals to visit with Sophia Loren, an SPCA therapy dog.

“She is relieving my stress and giving me a reason to smile,” Falk said. “She’s relaxed, she’s fun, she’s cute. She’s just soothing. Law school is a lot to do and a lot of time management so if you can take a little time with a dog it reminds you to keep perspective on things.”

The session was part of a new animal therapy program the library is sponsoring during finals to provide a fun and proven way to relieve stress. The program is a partnership with the San Francisco SPCA Animal Assisted Therapy Program, which is marking its 30th anniversary this year.

Students may sign up at the circulation desk for 10-minute sessions with the dogs. Sessions are offered on four days throughout finals, and take place in the TV room on the lower level of the library, which has been set up with a dog bed and water bowl. In addition to Sophia Loren, other dogs available to students include MotC, a golden doodle, Blaise, a golden retriever, Monk, a St. Bernard, and Daphne, a black Labrador.

“Knowing how stressful final exams are, I wanted to make things more humane for law students,” said Ron Wheeler, director of the law library. “I wanted to let the students know the library is a fun, interesting place to come and interact. I’ve seen a lot more smiles and a lot more laughter here in the library than ever before during exams, that’s for sure. It’s clear to me that the students minds get far away from exams or grade pressure and when I see the smiles I feel like we’re doing something positive for the students.”