USF law students turn to dogs for stress relief 

Final exams put pressures on college students, particularly those in professional schools. So the University of San Francisco is trying to help alleviate the stresses some students face by allowing them to spend time with a pet.

For 10-minute sessions during exams, law students at USF can relieve their stress by petting, playing with, or just sitting and reading alongside a dog.

According to nurse Betty Carmack, the exercise has been proven over and over to significantly reduce stress.

“The animals give off a sense of relaxation,” she said. “Even simply petting a dog can lower blood pressure and reduce stress.”

According to USF law professor Rhonda Magee, the school, as well as the legal profession, has tried to combat stress in many ways. Offering students a chance to play with animals is just one experiment, she said. Meditation and yoga are two others.

“Law is mentally demanding,” Magee said. “It’s like learning a new language. The first few years you really immerse yourself, so it can really be quite stressful.”

The program, which is being offered for the first time this semester, allows students to voluntarily sign up to spend a short time with a dog. Students can chose from one of five breeds, including a golden­doodle, a golden retriever, a Labrador retriever, a pit bull mix and a Saint Bernard, all adopted from the San Francisco SPCA.

The sessions are being held as students prepare for tests throughout the two-week exam period, which begins today.

For first-year law student Jackie Falk, 10 minutes on a recent Thursday spent with Sophia Loren — a pit bull mix — served as a reminder of home.

“It felt good to take your mind off everything else you had to do,” she said. “I really did feel more relaxed.”

Falk said she has a 10-year-old pit bull at home with her parents in Los Angeles, one of the many reasons she chose to take her session with Sophia Loren. Falk’s first of four exams is today.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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