ONTD Political

Cuddly puppies help law students de-stress before exams

8:44 pm - 12/02/2011
The stress of looming exams at George Mason University School of Law lifted for a couple of hours Thursday, thanks to the arrival of 15 homeless and adoptable puppies with velvety ears, soul-searching eyes and names like Doughboy, Sugar and Sue.

“Especially this time of the year, law school seems to ruin your life,” said Allison Tisdale, 24, a third-year from Texas who didn’t go home for Thanksgiving because she had to study. Holding a squirming puppy, she said, “you get to be human again.”

After the Yale Law Library added a “therapy dog” named Monty to its collection in the spring, a number of other law schools have used the gentle yapping of puppies to break the stifling pressure that blankets their campuses. Thursday was the second time Mason’s law school, in Arlington County, partnered with a Chantilly-based rescue group for “Puppy Day.”

Law school is designed to be stressful and competitive — professors are preparing students to work long hours for demanding bosses at large firms. The economic doldrums and scarcity of jobs after graduation have only added to the pressure.

Studies have found that the legal profession has higher-than-average rates of depression and problems with substance abuse. Many law schools now teach students how to balance the stress of late-night legal research, tort outlines and case summaries with healthy habits: running marathons, volunteering or hanging out with a pet.

“If people don’t learn how to balance their lives in law school, and then, if they go to a big firm, chances are they won’t balance their lives there, either,” said James E. Leffler, executive director of Lawyers Helping Lawyers, a Virginia nonprofit organization that offers assistance with substance abuse and mental-health issues. “They need to learn to take care of themselves and to also look out for their colleagues.”

At the University of Maryland School of Law, members of each incoming class meet in small groups with Dawna Cobb, the assistant dean for student affairs, who practiced law for 22 years while raising a family.

Some of Cobb’s messages: It’s okay to cry, but not for hours each day. Sleep is important. Eat healthy. Monitor your drinking. Find an outlet for stress, such as exercise, singing or knitting. And her door is open if you need to talk.

“Part of being a professional is knowing when you need to ask for help,” Cobb said she tells her students.

Many law schools offer in-house counseling centers and stress-management seminars. Finals season brings a flurry of activities to ease pressure: Georgetown University Law Center will serve up a carb-heavy “Night Owl Breakfast” next week. At the College of William and Mary Law School, a student group is organizing yoga classes, massages and meditation sessions.

Over the past three years, the Washington and Lee University School of Law transformed its third-year curriculum from a traditional hit-the-books regimen to hands-on experiences similar to practicing in the real world. In addition to making students more marketable, school officials hope it teaches them how to structure their lives after graduation.

“Law school is becoming more like life,” said Washington and Lee law professor James E. Moliterno. “I’m not a psychologist, but my take on life is that if you have experience with the things that can stress you out, the better prepared you are to handle those things.”

For high-strung law students, dogs and other animals can also provide a soothing presence. That’s a lesson researchers have learned from others in stressful environments, including soldiers in war zones and patients in rehabilitation centers.

At George Mason’s law school, which has more than 700 students, dozens took a break Thursday from their immersion in contracts, torts, criminal law and the like and gathered for more than two hours in the school’s atrium to play with the puppies. The animals had been saved recently from euthanasia in West Virginia shelters by A Forever-Home Rescue Foundation. The four litters of puppies are living with four foster moms until they are adopted. They are a mix of breeds, but many of them look like beagles or Labrador retrievers.

“There’s nothing like a puppy to make someone smile,” said Debbie Marson, a volunteer with the foundation. “It’s great for the students, and it’s great socialization for the dogs.”

When the puppies arrived, many seemed nervous around the mob of strangers. But as the students stroked their silky coats, they chilled out. Several fell asleep in the arms of future lawyers.

“I think they are sensing our stress,” said Tashina Harris, 23, a second-year student from Manassas who cuddled Summer, a white puppy with brown spots. “They’re reminding us we need to take breaks.”

Washington Post
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lickety_split 3rd-Dec-2011 03:09 am (UTC)
I'd totally steal one, not even playin'.
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(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
lightbird777 3rd-Dec-2011 03:12 am (UTC)
Puppies are awesome too but my vote goes to kittens.
mdemvizi 3rd-Dec-2011 03:11 am (UTC)
i want this right now. but i don't know if i could be trusted with one. i would totally run off with it.

roseofjuly 3rd-Dec-2011 05:40 am (UTC)
Same here. We begged and begged my mom for a dog but she said it would just be like having a fourth child. (Asking dad was an exercise in futility; we all knew whose decision this was.) What does she do after 2/3 of us move out of the house? ADOPT A FUCKING PUPPY. (She still says it's like having another kid.)

I want one so bad but I work in res life and obviously the university doesn't let us have dogs in the building. But I only have one more year of grad school and as soon as I move to another place, I'm getting a damn dog!
xballroomblitz 3rd-Dec-2011 03:19 am (UTC)
I could tots go for a cuddly little puppy right now. UBC needs this. The only pets we have are the mice in our library.
romp 3rd-Dec-2011 04:40 am (UTC)
Talk to one of the libraries! I'll sign the petition.
hazel_belle 3rd-Dec-2011 03:21 am (UTC)
An awesome idea... cute things make everything better in the end, god what I wouldn't do to cuddle and play with a puppy.
mswyrr 3rd-Dec-2011 03:23 am (UTC)
They did puppies for Finals Week at my the dorms of my undergrad uni. It's definitely a Good Idea.
layweed 3rd-Dec-2011 03:27 am (UTC)
Psssssssssst. If you adopt one of the homeless puppies, you'll get a lifetime of happiness and stress relief!
opera_darling 3rd-Dec-2011 03:28 am (UTC)
Law student who could really use a puppy right here. My first final is next Friday, and "stressed" doesn't even begin to cover it lol
countrygirl_914 3rd-Dec-2011 03:49 am (UTC)
Good luck!
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dumpweeds 3rd-Dec-2011 03:52 am (UTC)
this makes me miss my dog at home. I'm not even in law school but I feel like having him around would significantly lower my anxiety/stress levels :(
roseofjuly 3rd-Dec-2011 06:43 am (UTC)
Yeah, I really feel like having a dog would help me deal with my depression and anxiety, but my building doesn't allow dogs :( I was volunteering at an animal shelter, but they have this long and difficult process for even getting around to walk the dogs. I got through all the orientations and the classes, but you had to do a series of three test walks with a dog walker, and two of them were never available and one was only available on Saturday mornings from 9 to 12. I joined the shelter because they NEEDED weekday evening volunteers and I'm not available on Saturday mornings. DUH.

I'm going to try BARC, which doesn't require orientations or anything like that for you to walk the dogs.
sunkissedmornin 3rd-Dec-2011 04:01 am (UTC)
I'm going to write a strongly worded letter to my law school for not providing us with puppies. I'm so mad right now!!!! GIVE ME PUPPIES, JMLS, GOD DAMMIT.
hazel_belle 3rd-Dec-2011 04:07 am (UTC)
Use this as a source, and be like "IT WORKS. IT TOTALLY WORKS"
maladaptive 3rd-Dec-2011 04:30 am (UTC)
Huh, my school does this too. The Humane Society has their Pet-a-Puppy program, but it's not just during finals.

That said... omg, I have four more finals (WHYYYY) and I can't be bothered to even study anymore. I'm so tired. So reading about all the stressed people hitting the books makes me feel ridiculously guilty.
hllangel 3rd-Dec-2011 03:10 pm (UTC)
mine started this last semester, too.
romp 3rd-Dec-2011 04:42 am (UTC)
Cool! I've heard of public libraries and school libraries but not upper ed.

Library Dogs
sephystabbity 3rd-Dec-2011 04:55 am (UTC)
York needs this too.
bnmc2005 PUPPY POSTS!!!3rd-Dec-2011 05:04 am (UTC)
We need puppy pics!!! Share you puppy videos and pics!!!

Harley and her Frisbee
bnmc2005 Re: PUPPY POSTS!!!3rd-Dec-2011 05:05 am (UTC)
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