French bulldog Sylvia was on a mission Friday.
She trotted on her short legs around the lobby of the University of Baltimore School of Law, stopping only to push her flat, wrinkly nose against a student’s face.
During one of her loops, she climbed and stumbled over second-year law student Angelica Bailey’s legs, while Bailey petted her.
“This is just the best day ever,” said Bailey, 26.
UB Law hosted 10 dogs from Pets on Wheels Friday as a way to relieve stress among studying students. Friday was a study day for students to prepare for final exams, which start next week.
The event was organized by John Baber, the incoming editor in chief of the University of Baltimore Law Review, the Student Bar Association and the Women’s Bar Association.
“Will it soothe students?” said Baber, 31, a second-year law student. “I’m not sure. Will it show them the school is behind them during finals? Yeah.”
Stress is a reality for law school students, said D. Jill Green, assistant dean of the Law Career Development Office. She teaches stress management as part of a class that accompanies student internships.
UB Law has a 4.55 percent attrition rate, and 3.14 percent of students at University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law drop out between their first year and graduation, according to statistics from the Law School Admission Council Inc.
Green said the event particularly aimed to relieve first-year law students. According to the American Bar Association, about 10.7 percent of UB Law students drop out their first year. At UM Carey, 8.1 percent drop out the first year.
“They are all stressed out, particularly first-year students,” Green said. “It’s good to have a break from studies, to have a community event, but dogs bring down stress levels. Just petting and holding animals — there’s a physical and mental benefit.”
First-year student Darsh Singh, 23, was preparing for three finals this week.
“I’ve been in the library morning to night, and having something like this is great,” Singh said.
Singh said her first year as a law student had been one of the hardest things she’d ever done and compared it to trying to get into her undergraduate sorority.
“It’s tough,” Singh said. “Some make it and some don’t.”
First-year student Stephanie Maddox, 26, said the studying process had been stressful so far as she, like Singh, was preparing for three finals this week.
“It’s the worst thing in my entire life right now,” Maddox said.
Friday, groups of students in the law school lobby clustered around the dogs, who were held on leashes by volunteers. Sylvia continued to patrol the room while a golden retriever stood rooted in place waiting to be petted by students.
The dog event grew out of a discussion during the stress management portion of Green’s class. Students were talking about how animals are used to relieve stress in other environments like hospitals and offices. Then, Baber raised his hand and asked if UB Law had a similar program.
“You learn quickly here not to ask questions unless you are willing to do it yourself,” Baber said.
The group chose to work with Pets on Wheels, an organization that has dog owners volunteer to bring their animals to nursing homes, veterans’ hospitals and assisted living communities.
“These are just real dogs,” Baber said. “They just show up, act like themselves and make people happy.”
Third-year student Matt Nelson, 25, had one final to study for before graduating. His mom, Shari Nelson, volunteers for Pets on Wheels and brought her dog, Max, to the event
“It’s a nice break in the monotony of studying for finals,” Nelson said.
Baber said the groups want to make the event annual, and they are thinking of hosting it again during the summer while students are studying for the bar exam and during winter finals.
“A lot of us are away from home and don’t have dogs around, so to get that one-on-one attention is nice,” said second-year law student Alicia Shelton, 33.