In spring 2011, the Lillian Goldman Law Library at Yale found itself at the center of a media frenzy. Our public relations office was fielding daily, often hourly, telephone calls and emails from print, radio and television journalists across the globe, all eager to get the scoop on the latest development at the Yale Law School. The story featured on NPR, appeared in newspapers from Sydney, Australia to Taiwan, and, at the height of national interest, was the most emailed article in the New York Times. Staff at the library had expected a high level of public attention and planned accordingly, but we were nevertheless surprised by the sheer volume and persistence of media inquiries. Happily, the story was a uniquely positive one, in that sitting at the heart of the media storm was a small brown cross-breed terrier called General Montgomery, Monty to his friends: the newly minted Yale Law School Therapy Dog.
The motivation for introducing a therapy dog to the Yale Law School library was two-fold. Attending law school can sometimes be stressful. Studies indicate that, particularly in the first year of school, when incomers are adjusting to new teaching methods, materials, external and internal expectations, and even geographic locations, students can experience elevated stress levels. The evidence that visits from therapy dogs have resulted in increased happiness, calmness, and overall emotional well-being was a strong factor in proposing the introduction of Monty to the stacks: the health and general happiness of the students in our school is of paramount importance to the Yale Law School and Library.
At the Yale Law Library a good deal of outside the box thinking is encouraged, in an effort to provide creative, non-traditional services to our patrons. The library lends, for example, bicycles, soccer balls, soccer goals, phone chargers, happy lamps, umbrellas, iPads, DVDs and popular fiction, in addition to the customary legal materials. These services have all been greeted very positively by Yale law students.
The provision of a therapy dog was considered an excellent extension of these services: we want to make our readers feel delighted to be at Yale Law School, to show we care about them as individuals as well as law students.
Monty belongs to me (I’m the Access Services Librarian), and moved to the US with his friend, Oliver the cat, and me in 2002, after a successful early career as a therapy dog in the UK. Although he was certified with a UK therapy dog organization, it was deemed important that he be certified with a US organization, and so we started classes with the Delta Society. The training and requirements were very similar to those of the UK: the Delta Society was looking for animals that would follow all basic canine commands (‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ ‘leave it,’ ‘come,’ ‘put the cat down’); that showed no aggression or fear, even in stressful situations; and that displayed a temperament well suited to human interactions. To become certified, Monty underwent a full physical examination, completed a series of classes, and finally was subject to an evaluation by a certified Delta Society examiner. The dog passed with flying colors, and was considered ready to begin career at the law school.
When Can You Meet Him?
Monty will be making an appearance sometime before the winter holidays. I will send out an email in advance, announcing the dates and times of his visit, and inviting students who are interested to make a booking to hang out with him. You will get a 15-20 minute session with Monty, and can visit alone or with a group of friends (up to four at one time.) You’ll be able to feed him cookies and scratch his ears and just generally have some lovely dog time. Monty is 12 years old now, so not as sprightly as he once was. However, he still loves to hang out and be made much of. We look forward to meeting with you soon!