The Yale Law School’s therapy dog is here to stay.
A pilot program last month that allowed law students to rent Monty — a brown, hypoallergenic 21-pound border terrier mix — was so well received that the library will allow students to borrow the dog in May before final exams, said Law School Director of Public Affairs Janet Conroy. He will return before exams next year as well, said librarian and professor S. Blair Kauffman, who added that Monty is emblematic of the student-centered services the law library aims to provide.
“Monty is symbolic of what we’re about: being supportive and caring towards students,” Kauffman said. “Law is a profession that requires research, and we want to be the place students come to learn and feel at home.”
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Kauffman announced the pilot dog therapy program in a March 10 email to the student body, emphasizing his hope that visits with Monty, who belongs to access services librarian Julian Aiken, would decrease student stress. The program, which was originally Aiken’s idea, ran from March 28-30, during which time nearly 90 students registered for half-hour sessions. About 30 more signed on to a waiting list, Kauffman said.
Simi Bhat LAW ’12, who checked out Monty in March with a few of her friends, said she is excited Monty will be returning. Bhat said that “a playdate with Monty will be a great break from exam studying.”
Kaufmann added that the idea for a law school therapy dog was first floated last September, but Law School administration took some time to warm to the idea. There were concerns about whether the program would make Yale Law seem foolish, or whether students would react poorly, he said.
“We wanted to be very sensitive to student feedback,” Kauffman said. “It has all been very positive, which is good because the last thing we want is for students not to come to the library because of the dog.”
He added that many students said visiting with Monty released some of their stress and reminded them of home.
“I have four pets at home that I miss a lot, and I can’t have a pet in my apartment here in New Haven,” said Julie Duncan LAW ’12, who did not get a chance to check out Monty last month. “So I would appreciate getting to play with a dog sometime.”
Monty in particular is “extremely well qualified” to be a therapy dog, said Kauffman, adding that Monty was licensed for such work in New Haven and in his native Oxford, England. Kauffman said Monty graduated “summa cum laude” from his New Haven therapy dog course, so he fits in well at Yale Law.
Ursula Kempe, president of Therapy Dogs International — a group that licenses and distributes therapy dogs — told the News in March that therapy dogs must be nonjudgmental if they are to form a special connection with humans. Kempe added that therapy dogs can help in many different situations, from providing comfort to severe trauma victims to playing with the elderly or sick in hospitals to helping young students learn to read in front of others.
The therapy dog program is only one of several library-sponsored programs geared towards helping students, said Kauffman. The library also checks out umbrellas, soccer balls, goal posts and bicycles — and hosts more traditional academic events such as rare book exhibits and book talks with faculty and student authors.