Service dogs practice their stress relief skills on Georgetown law students

Munro checks out two students at the Georgetown University Law Center Wedneday. The 10-week-old golden retriever is training with Veterans Moving Forward. He visited the university as part of the Pause for Paws program, which invited service dogs in training to practice their skills and help ease students' stress. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
Cody waits for his turn to visit with students at the Georgetown University Law Center Wednesday during Pause for Paws, an event that allows law students to decompress before exams with a visit from service dogs. Cody is with Warrior Canine Connection. When he's completed his training, he'll be paired with a wounded warrior. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
Michele Kohl and Gambit visit Georgetown University Law Center Wednesday. Kohl is an assistance dogs-in-training coordinator with Veterans Moving Forward, one of four groups that brought dogs to the law center. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
Gabe is a mobility assistance/balance dog for Sgt. Justin Landsford (seated left). Carol Balmes (seated, second from left) is Landsford's girlfriend and one of the trainers at Warrior Canine Connection. Gabe can open doors and retrieve things as well for Landsford. They visited Georgetown University Law Center Wednesday. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
Munro, a 10-week-old golden retriever, considers a question from a WTOP reporter during a visit to Georgetown University Law Center Wednesday. Munro is training with Veterans Moving Foward and visited the campus for Pause for Paws, an event that allows law students to decompress before exams by visiting with service dogs-in-training. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

WASHINGTON – When exam time rolls around, student stress spikes. To help relieve the pre-exam jitters, many college campuses have had visits from shelter dogs and puppies.

At the Georgetown University Law Center, there’s a slightly different approach. Service dogs-in-training from a variety of organizations pay a visit, and practice moving among crowds and being handled.

Tianda Harris, a third-year law student at Georgetown, came up with the idea and dubbed it “Pause for Paws.”

Judging from the number of students lining up to pet a puppy or snuggle with an older dog Wednesday, the visit was a hit. Student Kristen Wilson says the visit was just what she needed. “It’s definitely a happy moment. There is no stress.”

Harris says while the visits help law students facing high stakes exams relax a bit, “it also helps the dogs do their training. Like the guide dog we have here, it’s just amazing.” She was referring to Lisette, a young German shepherd being trained for Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

The students loved the adult dogs. But Munro, a 10-week-old golden retriever in training with Veterans Moving Forward, was clearly stealing a lot of hearts as well as easing nerves. As soon as students entered the room where Munro was playing with a chew toy, there were choruses of “Awwwwww” from the clusters of future lawyers.

Brittany Cohan from Connecticut said she was tempted to pop the puppy in a backpack and take him home. “I love puppies! So it’s nice to take a quick break and play with a dog.”

Fidos for Freedom, Veterans Moving Forward, Warrior Canine Connection and Guiding Eyes for the Blind all brought dogs to the campus for the event.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @kateryanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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