Pet Therapy Welcome Relief For IU McKinney Students

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Katie Stancombe for www.theindianalawyer.com

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law students headed to the library for final exam cramming were met with a pleasant surprise Wednesday when several furry, four-footed friends greeted them at the door.

The law school hosted its fall exam stress-relief day at the Ruth Lilly Law Library, including fun activities and games, as well as pet therapy. Since 2012 the school has welcomed therapy animals and their owners to lighten the heavy load of stress on its students’ shoulders.

Daily1128Pets-15colKitty Stephens of the Ruth Lilly Law Library hugs JLAP therapy dog Judge Wednesday during IU McKinney’s exam stress relief day. (IL photo/Katie Stancombe)

Dogs and cats visited with students throughout the day, representing organizations ICAN, Love on a Leash, Healing Paws and the Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program.Bright and early, a fluffy grey Maine Coon cat named Mischa sat perched in the library’s window, observing passersby. Her owner, JLAP representative Kari Morrigan, said this was Mischa’s second appearance at the school’s stress relief day. People are drawn to her because of her tufted ears and distinctive appearance, she said.

Mischa has also helped Morrigan while she facilitates a bar exam survival group for those who have not yet successfully passed. She said events like these are great opportunities to engage with students and inform them about the options available to them for support during school.

“What we’re offering is stress relief, and so for us, it’s also like ‘Hey, JLAP is available for students,’ which not all schools or students even realize,” she said.  “So we get them talking, and they want to pet the cat, so they’ll talk to us.”

While visiting a similar stress-relief event at Valparaiso Law School, Morrigan said some students stayed with Mischa so long that they began to open up about their concerns and struggles.

“That’s a really stressed-out group of students up there,” Morrigan said. “So it was really awesome to watch them interact with her. One student said, ‘I’m allergic but I can’t help it’ and she held onto Mischa for probably 15 minutes.”

In another room, Judge, a 4-year-old German Shepherd-Malinois mix greeted students with nose budges and a wagging tail. Owner and IU McKinney graduate Ashley Hart said Judge served as her own sort of therapy dog during her law school experience.

“He’s been here with me all through applying to law school, being in law school, bar prep and the bar,” she said. “We’re really excited to be with JLAP and bring some joy to the students.”

With his new therapy dog certification and JLAP vest, Judge made his first appearance at Wednesday’s event. Hart said he’s still learning the ropes, but Judge had no trouble making every visitor he met smile.

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